By: Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, President and CFO of Lifescapes International
The retail experience has and continues to evolve. Online sales are projected to reach $523 billion by 2020, increasing at an annual average rate of 9.32 percent, according to reports by Forrester Research Inc. While brick-and-mortar shopping still remains a dominant channel for American consumers, e-commerce growth continues to increase at a rapid rate, indicating a fundamental shift in the way today’s consumers approach retail.
In order to remain competitive in this ever changing landscape, retail owners must adapt their strategies to create retail centers that cater to the evolving demands of today’s shoppers. The majority of consumers that still prefer to make purchases in stores are no longer simply searching for places to shop, but are rather seeking multi-sensory environments and experiences that cannot be replicated through online channels.
The question is, how do retail owners create these experiential centers that extend beyond the traditional retail experience? The short answer: innovative landscape design.
Landscape design can play an integral, if not essential, role in cultivating these experiences and transforming a center from a cookie-cutter mall to an upscale destination of choice. In fact, the presence of physical beauty has been proven to build and establish an emotional connection with one’s surroundings.
Consumers today place significant value on centers that evoke this emotional connection and provide warm, inviting environments that appeal to all senses. This, in turn, plays a role in driving traffic, increasing length of stay and keeping shoppers coming back time and time again.
The Point, located in El Segundo, California. (Image courtesy of Eric Figge)
One way that owners can do this is by integrating a series of intimate and large-scale gathering spaces throughout a center’s landscape design. At The Point, an upscale lifestyle center in El Segundo, we strategically designed a series of outdoor gathering spaces surrounded by lush landscaping to create intimate and beautiful environments where visitors can gather and socialize.
These environments provide shoppers with endless opportunities to connect and build lasting memories with friends and family, which is instrumental in increasing a shopper’s length of stay and establishing that emotional connection that encourages repeat visits.
Today, The Point is a top destination of choice for shoppers throughout the Los Angeles metro and receives thousands of visitors, many of whom are repeat customers.
In addition to these social hubs, owners can further create destinations of choice by integrating unique water and entertainment-driven features, lush and vibrant gardens that serve as focal points throughout the property and centralized courtyards to host an array of community events.
At Pacific City in Huntington Beach, we designed a central courtyard on the lower floor with festoon lights, as well as an open area on the upper floor to serve as a multi-purpose space for special events, exhibitions and open-air movies. With nearly 40 percent of the property devoted to landscaping, we successfully created an entertainment-driven retail destination that entices shoppers to shop, relax and socialize all in one place. These features help to further establish a sense of community and drive traffic to a retail center. Today, Pacific City is one of the most active retail centers in all of Orange County.
It is also important that retail owners provide unique landscape elements that differentiate their centers from the competition. These elements can generate enormous value by cultivating a unique experience that drives length of stay and encourages repeat visits. Today’s consumers are seeking shopping centers that not only offer a wide variety of retail options but also encourage a live/work/play lifestyle. As such, retail owners that provide a number of interesting and innovative landscape features will attract more consumers and ultimately boost their bottom line.
One example of this is the bike pathways that we designed for The Point. These pathways are adjacent to restaurants and shops throughout the center, which allow shoppers to easily amble around and add to the overall shopping experience. We also incorporated bike lockers into the overall design, providing easy storage for consumers while shopping. These unique features make a huge difference in delivering a lifestyle shopping experience that will drive increased traffic and revenue for retail owners.
Ultimately, shopping center owners must provide unique offerings and enriching multi-sensory experiences beyond traditional retail in order to thrive in today’s industry. Landscape design plays an integral role in shaping the consumer experience, and is uniquely positioned to deliver exactly what today’s consumers are demanding, which include stimulating environments for socialization and interaction. The best shopping centers will integrate innovative landscaping in order to adapt and evolve with the changing demands of the modern consumer.
Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs is President and CFO of Lifescapes International, a landscape architectural firm that has created iconic retail and hospitality destinations for many clients, including Caruso Affiliated, Wynn Resorts, Vestar, Federal Realty, Segerstrom Companies, Sudberry Properties and CenterCal Properties, among others. Contact her at (949) 476-8888 or [email protected].