Spokane Journal of Business

Guest Commentary: Entertainment venues, social amenities might help to save malls

Value-added shopping …

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Preliminary sales trends from Small Business Saturday show a continuing increase in purchases via smartphone, even among shoppers patronizing local merchants.

According to the Associated Press, Adobe Analytics said purchase via smartphone made up over 40% of all e-commerce revenue on Saturday, Nov. 30. That is up 22% from a year ago. Shoppers spent $3.6 billion buying online from small businesses that day.

Adobe reported overall online sales are up 18% from 2018 and holiday season sales are on track to grow nearly 15%. Small businesses should benefit. They captured $68.2 billion in online sales in November.

Interestingly, people are not just sitting at their desk or laptop computers ordering electronically. With mobile phones, they can purchase from anywhere – even while in stores or malls comparing prices.

The fact is brick-and-mortar retailers, whether located on Main Street, in strip malls, or in giant shopping centers, remain in a fight for survival.

Softplay.com, a maker of indoor playgrounds and attractions for shopping malls and other indoor gathering places, believes malls need to transform into what it calls “retail-tainment” centers to combat the surging growth of e-commerce. The idea is to enhance the entertainment experience so that shoppers will now have more reasons to visit a mall than to simply shop.

The concept is simple. Make malls places where bowling alleys, movie theaters, miniature golf courses, skating rinks, amusement rides, and video gaming centers are located. Fitness and aquatic centers, medical and dental offices, and grocery stores can also co-locate for one-stop convenience.

Softplay found that no matter how important retailer online divisions have become, they can’t replace all of the business these stores could do at their physical locations. People still want to have interactive and social experiences – something that is hard to replicate fully online.

Many shoppers still like to try on clothes, find in-store sales and return merchandise without the inconvenience and delays of sending products back. Sometimes, it is simple as driving to the mall to exchange a birthday present for your grandchild without going through the shipping hassle and delays.

Softplay believes retail-tainment is attractive to millennials. They are currently the largest generation in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center, and they represent an enormous population that isn’t coming into the stores regularly.

Millennials often have smaller comparative budgets than their parents and grandparents did at their ages. Their jobs are statistically lower paying, and much of what income they do have goes toward paying off student loans and rent.

“Because their budgets are stretched so thin, many millennials are choosy about how they spend their money. This makes them less apt to simply browse a shopping mall for fun or buying something they like on impulse,” Softplay concludes. 

Retail-tainment offers them a new opportunity.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and retired president of the Association of Washington Business. He now lives in Vancouver, Washington, and can be reached at theBrunells@msn.com.

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