Mobilising the Consumer

Individual customer loyalty and strength of affiliation across all customers are key indicators of retail health. It is thus important to understand the factors that influence consumer mobility across competing retail environments.

This is just one aspect of consumer behaviour that we explore in our new report Australia’s Preferred Shopping Environments.

The research for this report was based on a survey of over 1000 shoppers across Australia.

One of the things we asked respondents to do was to assign importance to particular attributes of shopping environments, and then to rate them on performance of these attributes. Shopping centres performed particularly well in relation to strip retailing and online retail.

Table 1 indicates the four top tested attributes and the percentage of consumers who rated shopping centres as performing best on them. Performing well on the most important attributes as rated by consumers is a baseline benchmark for generating customer traffic.

The healthy performance of shopping centres compared with other retail formats on these attributes reflects the strength of the Australian industry, but also indicates areas where retail provision can improve.

Supermarket anchors and fresh food precincts are a core strength of Australian shopping centres. Developers have successfully incorporated them into centres of all sizes and the better operations have quality mixed specialty fresh food offers as well. Such cohesive tenancy strategies are difficult for other retail formats to compete with, although online will draw some custom with remote ordering and delivery take up over the next 5-10 years.

The dominance of car-based grocery trips is one factor in the ongoing importance of car access and parking for all retail environments. From the first, shopping centres were designed to marry car and pedestrian traffic, and car parking remains a major advantage held by shopping centres over retail strips. It is a key measure of accessibility and facilitates consumer mobility. Where retail offer should be measured in terms of ‘pull’ factor, poor car parking acts as a barrier to visitation. Improvements in layout and quantity then act to incrementally reduce obstacles to visitation.

Following 30 years of declining standards, customer service is one of the new benchmarks for successful retail. This is in part a result of the increased scrutiny that consumers are placing on retail operations since the GFC. Overlay this with an influx of international retailers running sophisticated and robust business models, and the challenges facing Australian retailing become clear.

For consumers, service has become a lightening rod for discontent with established Australian retail – particularly in the department store sector. Shopping centres were not as dominant on this attribute as others, suggesting that the major chains have an issue with service. The high importance that consumers attach to service, however, means that it, too, can act as a ‘pull’ factor. As competition heats up in Australian retailing over the next 3 years, this will be one determining factor between success and failure.

While many of the stores in shopping centres need to improve on their delivery, shopping centres themselves remain popular with consumers. The controlled and cohesively managed environment bequeaths many advantages, including strong performance on the fourth most important attribute – safety. In-house security staff, good lighting, and large customer traffic volumes all contribute to perceptions of centres as safe, secure environments for families, women and children.

Strong performance on these and other attributes, detailed in the Australia’s Preferred Shopping Environments Report, suggest that well-managed and located shopping centres are positioned strongly to deal with the rapid changes occurring in Australian retailing, and will face less upheaval that retailers themselves. To access a free copy of Australia’s Preferred Shopping Environments Report, click hereand for more information, including consumer ratings of online and strip retailing environments, give us a call on 1300 138 651.