Malls Need More of These Kinds of Businesses to Lure Shoppers

Changes are afoot in shopping centers around the country, not only as retailers vacate stores due to bankruptcy or shrinking footprints but also as landlords bring in new businesses like fitness centers and co-working spaces to fill the empty storefront.

But what do shoppers really want to find when they make a trip to their local mall? According to a new report from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the answer is often “something to eat.”

In a poll of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, half said they want more food and beverage options in shopping centers, ahead of leisure and entertainment venues (40%), medical/health clinics (28%), personal care services (26%) and gyms/fitness centers (25%). The latter category was most popular with millennial respondents, while baby boomers were most likely to desire more dining establishments.

In 2017, ICSC reported that the amount of space U.S. shopping centers devoted to food and beverage had nearly doubled from a decade prior, rising from 5% to 8-9% on average. In some European markets, the share was 10-15%, a number expected to rise to 20% by 2025. Malls today are increasingly offering destinations for visiting foodies: New York’s recently opened Hudson Yards shopping center features a counter-serve Milk Bar outpost and a massive Spanish food hall from José Andrés, while Florida’s redesigned Aventura Mall now boasts Luke’s Lobster, Trópico Cuban Kitchen (coming soon), The Little Beet and Figs Pizza + Pasta Bar by Todd English, the celebrity chef..

These updated dining concepts meet shoppers where they’re already spending their money: A slightly greater share of shoppers (81%) said they spent more money on food and beverage services in malls since January than they did at traditional retailers (80%). Both categories beat out leisure and entertainment (42%) and fitness/wellness (37%), though these segments are growing as consumers shift their dollars toward experiences over goods. In fact, while goods still make up the bulk of shoppers’ purchases, monthly spending on services is growing at a faster rate — 16% compared with 7% between 2016 and 2018, according to ICSC.

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