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Shopping Centres Re-imagined in a World Post-COVID-19

The evolution of retail is evident.

Currently the pandemic of COVID-19 is impacting our lives and changing them for the foreseeable future. Our time in isolation has allowed us to reflect on the future of retail and how we will respond to change within shopping centres during this current climate. We are starting to picture what our retail spaces will soon look like post COVID-19 and the evolution of consumer behaviour. Get ready to adapt, flourish and get creative!

As we consider our consumer behaviour moving forward, it’s important to consider what difference the brick and mortar stores will have to set them apart. Months without stepping foot in a shopping precinct, many are considering their dollar; the difference between making essential purchases and buying items that are a luxury. Not only has it driven an increase in online shopping, but the pandemic has decreased spontaneous purchases we are prone to indulging in as we stroll around a centre. Shopping centres hereafter will be a place required to deliver not just retail outlets, but a place of experience, connection and community.

Centres are becoming curated places of community zones; inspiring visitors to stay, play, relax and recharge. With disruption in the ‘brick-and-mortar’ world as brands start to have a primarily online presence, it’s important to not compete with this generational shift, but embrace the new way of shopping. Centres are now required to be an experience centre, to draw people in and give them an encounter they won’t have through their screen.

Just walk into your local shopping centre and take in the digital screens advertising new retailers, innovative food court designed to encourage a dining experience rather than a quick bite, and kids play areas with an interactive and educational purpose.

Play Town @ Castle Town, Townsville

Vacant tenancies will unfortunately be inevitable with the aftermath of COVID-19. But let’s look at this with the glass half full! Vacant tenancies provide the perfect space for centres to engage with their customers through interactive and inclusive play spaces. Places that will end up being seen with hashtags on everyone’s online feed. With the key word “grammable” at the heart of every brief, it’s important to add life, colour and interest into each space. New ideas, new concepts and innovative visual delights.

Tree Top Play @ Robina Town Centre

Centres are now required to be an experience centre, to draw people in and give them an encounter they won’t have through their screen.

Visual communication is a universal language and re-purposing a vacant tenancy will express to an audience a positive message about the popularity and health of the centre. When a positive message is sent to the brain, it puts the brain into a relaxed state (1). When tenancies are for lease, someone is prompted to think, why did they leave? Is business not good here? Should I be investing my money here? Where are other people shopping, if not here? Instead, fill that vacant space with colour and life encouraging a positive message to the consumer. In turn, people will reflect that the area is alive with activity and purpose and enter into the relaxed state.

Minipilly @ Indooroopilly Shopping Centre

Re-imagine urban life by promoting and creating a welcoming environment through the re-design of a vacant tenancy that will increase dwell time. With lush green turf underfoot and tepee tents creating hideaway areas amongst frilly palm trees, what’s not to love about an urban jungle designed for kids play. Add some play panels, timber furniture and artificial greenery and the tenancy will transform into a space for both little people and parents to enjoy. As mum and dad run out of holiday activities, why not venture back to the local shopping centre to soak up free activities from ball pits to ride-on cars.

Alternatively, targeting a teenage and young adult audience might be the right move for your centre. Tenancies have the ability to include even those who don’t want to venture from their iPhones. With the blank canvas of a vacant tenancy, create an Instagram wall with neon signs, velvet furniture and contemporary finishes. Provide spaces for study and gathering with friends through a well designed space. Creating an engaging and comfortable environment through light, space and material can trigger happiness and psychological wellbeing (2).

As COVID-19 impacts our lives now and into the future, we can respond with authenticity and honesty by working with the change rather than against it. Through the power of visual communication, shopping centres will transform into places of experience and connection and we can’t wait to see it happen.


1. https://99designs.com.au/blog/tips/psychology-design/

2. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/design/how-architecture-uses-space-light-and-material-to-affect-your-mood-american-institute-architects-a6985986.html




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