Aus­tralian malls turn to vil­lage life as re­tail­ers feel pinch

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

As Aus­tralia’s lo­cal mer­chants strug­gle with an in­flux of global names, lead­ing malls are con­sid­er­ing re­turn­ing to their vil­lage cen­tre roots to woo new ten­ants by mov­ing away from shops and of­fer­ing med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, more restau­rants and even amuse­ment parks. Sev­eral top re­tail­ers have re­cently suc­cumbed to pres­sure from for­eign gi­ants such as Ja­pan’s Uniqlo and Sephora of France and with Ama­zon plot­ting its de­but in the coun­try, the fu­ture looks tough. The re­sponse from de­vel­op­ers has been to re­de­fine the mall away from a “shop­ping” fo­cus to be­come a more com­mu­nity-driven ser­vice and en­ter­tain­ment space. While cafes and restau­rants have long helped at­tract shop­pers to malls, they are now fill­ing shop­ping cen­tres, pro­vid­ing some buzz even as an eerie quiet fills some nearby cloth­ing stores. With the big global names pour­ing huge sums of cash into the coun­try, once pop­u­lar cloth­ing chains such as David Lawrence, Pump­kin Patch, Her­ring­bone, and Rhodes & Beck­ett have bit­ten the dust, while oth­ers scram­ble to re­duce costs.

This has in­cluded cut­ting back on bricks and mor­tar stores, and steer­ing cen­tre own­ers to­wards food, en­ter­tain­ment, health­care and child­care providers. Ma­jor land­lords such as Vicin­ity and West­field spin-off Scen­tre, which this year have seen their share prices slip to one or two-year lows, are al­ready re­de­vel­op­ing their ar­cades. Vicin­ity’s Chad­stone Shop­ping Cen­tre in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia’s largest mall, is now the site of the south­ern hemi­sphere’s first mas­sive amuse­ment park Le­goland. The com­pany is also tap­ping into newer tech­nolo­gies such as fa­cial recog­ni­tion to iden­tify con­sumers through their age and gen­der and an­a­lyze their shop­ping habits. “What we are see­ing is the malls start­ing to pivot away from com­mod­ity-type prod­ucts... to­wards re­tail­ers that of­fer a ser­vice which isn’t phys­i­cal,” real es­tate firm Cush­man & Wake­field’s re­tail in­vest­ments head Nick Pot­ter said. “Shop­ping cen­ters are the mod­ern vil­lage, it’s where ev­ery­one comes to­gether. Th­ese cen­ters are typ­i­cally lo­cated in the cen­tre of towns, they’ve got strong in­fra­struc­ture... and that of­fers up the abil­ity to move with the times.”

The move is a re­turn to the vi­sion of Vic­tor Gruen, an Aus­trian-born Amer­i­can who in the 1950s de­vel­oped the con­cept of the ar­cade as a pub­lic space akin to the mar­ket place of cen­turies past, where civic life played a cen­tral role. Adding to the shift is the growth of on­line shop­ping, which of­fers shop­pers the same op­tions but with the added bonus of not be­ing sub­ject to gen­eral sales tax (GST) for any­thing be­low Aus$1,000 (US$760). Can­berra has sought to end the loop­hole by im­pos­ing a 10 per­cent levy from next July but the lower mar­gins for on­line store such as eBay and ASOS still makes them at­trac­tive. —AFP

SYD­NEY: This photo shows a re­tail and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment site in Syd­ney. —AFP

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