Successful Retail Properties Boost the Bottom Line with an Experiential Approach

by Scott Reid

Shoppers are now looking for retail centers where they can connect with their community and share experiences with family and friends. How do retail centers leverage this shift in retail experience to impact their bottom line?

The retail experience is changing. The once passive retail formula focused on “getting in and getting out” as quickly as possible has now evolved into an all-immersive experience. Shoppers are now looking for retail centers where they can connect with their community and share experiences with family and friends. The question is, how do retail centers leverage this shift in retail experience to impact their bottom line?

The answer is two-fold: retail centers must pay attention to the changing demands of their target audiences, and work to establish long-term connections with their shoppers.

Appealing to Female Shoppers

Women are a powerful and frequent shopping group and are a critical component in driving future traffic and sales to a retail center. This demographic is responsible for 85 percent of all shopping and travel decisions for their families, making the needs and wants of women an influential factor in the design of a retail center.

As the retail climate continues to shift, female shoppers are no longer willing to accept the traditional shopping experience. These shoppers are seeking all-encompassing environments where they can shop, socialize, eat and connect with friends, family, and their community. They want to be surrounded by beautiful environments that stimulate all of their senses.

In order to appeal to this demographic and deliver the immersive environment female shoppers demand, retail owners and developers are increasingly consulting with landscape architectural firms to devise strategies that create warm, inviting and visually stimulating environments that help to build the emotional connection shoppers seek. By doing so, retail centers are able to drive traffic, increase length of stay and ultimately increase profitability.

For example, at the Village at Meridian, a CenterCal Properties shopping center in Idaho, Lifescapes International completed a landscape design that transformed the retail center into a destination of choice. By implementing a variety of amenities including mature trees, water features, children play areas and fireplaces with comfortable seating, customers can build experiences and connect with one another. The emotional connection that is created through these environments makes customers more likely to increase their length of stay and to return to the center for future visits.

Creating Connections

According to the Urban Land Institute’s “Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places,” two of the most important factors that contribute to creating emotional bonds between people and their community are physical beauty and opportunities for socializing. This is exactly what was done in the Village at Meridian, and the results at that center demonstrate the importance of landscape design when it comes to driving traffic and establishing long-term customers for retail centers.

Creating connections is also important in existing retail centers. One example is The District at Green Valley Ranch, a Vestar property in Henderson, Nevada, for which Lifescapes recently provided a refreshed landscape design. This included lining the roadway with date palms, creating additional seating and gathering areas, and softening the landscape as a whole to create a more welcoming environment.

At this center, the needs of the target audience and the shift in the retail experience were heavily considered when planning the refreshed design. Based on these considerations, the property was transformed into an active, immersive space where shoppers, friends, and families can all gather and share experiences.

As a result of its new landscape design, the center has experienced an increase in visitors, higher on-site traffic and increased length of stay among guests.

Each of these properties demonstrates the importance and significance of landscape design for a retail property. Considering that 66 percent of mall shoppers in the United States are women, thoughtful planning and innovative landscape design can capture the needs and wants of these shoppers by delivering active, immersive spaces in which these shoppers can create emotional connections.

Boosting the Bottom Line

By implementing a design that is focused on emotional connections and the needs and wants of female shoppers, retail owners and developers can significantly boost their bottom line.

Investing in these features offers tremendous value to owners and developers at a relatively small cost. Depending on project size, a landscape design budget for a retail center can average from anywhere from two to ten percent of overall construction costs. This relatively small cost provides retail owners and developers the opportunity to deliver environments that establish long-term customers and ensure guest loyalty for years to come.

Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs is president and CFO of Lifescapes International, a firm that has created retail and hospitality destinations for many clients, including Caruso Affiliated, Wynn Resorts, Vestar, Federal Realty, Sudberry Properties and CenterCal Properties, among others. Contact her at (949) 476-8888 or at [email protected].


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