A new report based on research conducted in Directional Insights’ Australian Consumer and Shopper Behaviour Report (ACSB), demonstrates that shopping centres retain a firm position at the top of Australia’s retail hierarchy, and that on virtually all tested attributes they outperform both high street retailing and online shopping. In the ACSB survey, respondents were asked to evaluate the importance of a range of attributes and to indicate which shopping environments performed best on each. The results were compiled to produce the Australia’s Preferred Shopping Environments Report.
The tested attributes covered both utilitarian and experiential aspects of the shopping environment including: parking, accessibility, navigation, atmosphere, availability of product categories, retail mix, levels of service, and the quality and suitability of stores.
Shopping centres came out on top on all but one attribute – attractive coffee shops and restaurants – and even here sat only just behind high street retail precincts.
Shopping centres performed particularly well on parking and the provision of a secure shopping environment – both of which were rated as very important by shoppers.The capacity of shopping centres to incorporate a quality supermarket and fresh food offer was also highly regarded by consumers, as was the ease with which centres could be navigated.
High street retail struggled to compete on many of these attributes indicating the challenges faced by retail precincts receiving limited investment and lacking cohesive management. They did, though, perform well on the provision of appealing cafes and restaurants. This suggests that shopping centres still have a way to go in producing bespoke, ambient eateries that convey a sense of authenticity. This may in part be attributable to the prevalence of chain and franchise operations holding centre tenancies.
The report suggests that online retail will continue to take market share and performs comparatively well on a range of attributes, particularly ease of access and breadth of offer. Online potentially offers more diversity than any physical retail precinct can possible accommodate. The difficulty remains in the accessibility and visual presence of such a vast offer, as well as the willingness of consumers to explore it.
This, though, is clearly growing. The ability of bricks and mortar retailers to incorporate the strengths of online innovation into their multi-channel operations will thus play a role in determining consumers’ ongoing perceptions, not only of their own brands, but of the shopping centres within which they hold tenancies. At the centre level, consciously combating the strengths of online through leasing strategies, technological innovation, marketing, promotional activity, and investment in the centre environment will be crucial to maintaining market share.