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Lifestyle villages to replace shopping centres says panel

We won’t prefix centres with “shopping” in future, claimed Neil Carter, centre manager at the multi-million pound Whiteley Shopping Centre in Hampshire.

Instead, the venues will be “lifestyle villages” he said during a panel discussion at Retail Design Expo chaired by Aver founder Nick Thornton.

Carter said the current aim of property developers is to create a third space for consumers - after home and work – so that in the future we will see workspaces intertwined with shopping, leisure and entertainment. He said the developers behind Whiteley Shopping Centre are “already looking at restructuring so that teams will look after places – lifestyle centres rather than shopping centres or offices”.

Carter is at the helm of an £84m shopping centre that opened four years ago, but developers British Land and USS are already looking to change the space with plans submitted to add a multimillion pound entertainment extension.

The role of shopping centres is changing rapidly, agreed David Maddison, general manager at shopping and leisure centre Trinity Leeds. The rise of online retail means shopping centres “need to be an experience-led organisations…that’s really taken over the reason to visit,” he said.

In addition to providing cinemas and restaurants, Trinity Leeds operates an “always on” strategy whereby there are continuous events running throughout the year. “Events give our customers something different and, importantly FOMO – fear of missing out,” joked Maddison. 

One such FOMO event involved installing a 22 ft helter skelter as part of a ‘Slide into Spring’ campaign. 9,000 people went down the slide over nine days and, at the bottom, could browse new Spring collections from nine brands.

With 2.1m hits, events are being used to market the centres and create a reason for customers to keep coming back. Events are designed to create a social buzz, with a recent Easter “Wonder Button” event generating 4.2 mn social hits.

However, the rapid development of traditional retail spaces to incorporate entertainment and events require a different skill set from employees, explained panelist Davinda Jhamat, head of research and education at retail membership organisation Revo. “Consumer expectations are getting higher and higher, keeping them engaged, and having a really skilled labour force are absolutely imperative.”