Discover the shift in Australian shopper behaviour

Last month’s release of Directional Insights’ Consumer Shopping Benchmarks 2013, compiled from over 26,000 face to face interviews in centre, shows some key changes in the ways that Australians have been using shopping centres over the past 2 years. They also demonstrate the ways in which the better shopping centres are adapting to these changes.

The biggest changes can be seen at the Neighbourhood and Regional levels. Sub-Regionals have tended to be less innovative, tracking steadily but unremarkably in the middle ground.

In a broader economic atmosphere of uncertainty and caution, Neighbourhood centres are proving their worth as community hubs. People are less likely to drive to Neighbourhood’s than in 2011; more are walking or catching public transport. There has been a slight increase in Leisure shopping (up 3% to 21%) and average time in-centre has increased from 38 to 43 minutes.

Shoppers are also using Neighbourhood centres in more diverse ways with small increases in the percentage of shoppers purchasing food catering and apparel, and more people visiting clothing stores and discounters.

Consumer shopping patterns have been most stable in Sub-Regional centres although, as with Neighbourhoods, shoppers are spending a little more time in-centre and have increased spending on the cheap and casual luxury of food catering.

While satisfaction with Sub-Regional performance has increased, there remains dissatisfaction with parking, value for money and the variety of stores in the retail mix – all of which are indications the industry’s exposure to online competition.

What should also be a concern for Sub-Regionals is the movement and innovation occurring at the Regional level, particularly around food retailing. Heavy usage of Regionals (up to 3 visits a week) has grown, driven by more consumers using major centres for top up grocery shopping. There has also been an increase in the use of Regionals for main grocery and food shopping trips, reflecting the efforts many centres have made in providing top quality specialty fresh marketplace precincts.

Regionals have been the most dynamic centres in terms of innovation and investment, chasing their customer aggressively, investing in experience, their food offer and facilities. They have created stronger drawing power with customers travelling further for this experience. Customers visiting from beyond the trade area are also spending more than previously.

Highlighting the importance of ‘experiential retailing’, the gap between Mission and Leisure shopping expenditure in Regional centres has doubled, with Leisure shoppers now spending an average of $92, compared with Mission shoppers average expenditure of $84. Expenditure per minute in centre has also increased.

Ongoing investment in the retail experience is required, however, as the amount of time consumers are spending in Regionals has continued to decrease in line with longer term trends.

The growth area over the last two years has been in food retailing and in the retail experience. Well-managed Neighbourhoods are localising and providing a community focus. Investment in quality facilities and specialty fresh food has built on the drawing power of the best Regionals. While some Sub-Regionals are performing well, others have the latent potential to provide the best of both worlds through targeted investment based on sound research into their customer base.