It is not just retail customers who are craving new experiences. Retailers themselves are also actively seeking exciting and innovative new retail settings.
The onus is therefore on retail property owners, developers, leasing agents and marketers to be brave enough to push the boundaries in doing something different and to successfully sell their vision. Those that do will be rewarded by both retailers and consumers alike.
When I look back at my long involvement with the marketing of Brisbane retail properties, I am amazed at just how dramatically the landscape has changed.
I launched the landmark Emporium precinct in Fortitude Valley more than 12 years ago and there was nothing else like it in Brisbane at the time. This was a revolutionary Brisbane retail development – an innovative and exciting retail, dining and social precinct set outside the confines of the normal shopping centre environment.
It was something completely different than what was previously available in Brisbane at the time and provided a true lifestyle destination and experience for customers to meet, shop, dine and socialise in one fully integrated and stylish location.
Brisbane retail consumers continue to drive change by demanding a vibrant social experience when they shop, dine and catch-up with friends, and it is retail precincts such as Emporium that are at the forefront of meeting this demand.
As Brisbane as a city has matured, a diverse range of other innovative new retail settings have continued to pop up throughout its inner urban areas. These include an ever-increasing number of laneway retail developments, which were once only found in Melbourne.
Laneway and other non-traditional retail settings are now easily accessible to Brisbane customers and are popular destinations for boutique shopping and socialising over morning coffees, long lunches or evening drinks.
Mixed-use precincts incorporated on the ground floors of new residential developments are also changing the face of Brisbane retailing and dining by delivering exciting new lifestyle destinations spread throughout our suburbs.
However, it is not just new developments that are responding to consumers’ demand for something new, exciting and different for their shopping and casual dining experiences.
Redevelopments and refurbishments of existing retail properties also have a crucial role to play in this trend. What is clear is that a little ‘outside the box’ thinking can go a long way in creating a valuable point of difference for any retail property.
One example of this that recently caught my eye is the revamped Newmarket Village shopping centre in Brisbane’s inner north. This existing community shopping centre, which featured a major supermarket, a pub and a range of specialty retailers, has been rejuvenated with the addition of cinemas and a very innovative new dining precinct.
This new dining precinct is not huge by any stretch but it certainly is different, with a small collection of casual dining outlets and specialty retailers incorporated within the underground car parking area.
While this may not sound instantly appealing, it works due to the dynamic tenancy mix and a clever combination of expertly installed lighting and natural light flowing from the dining precinct’s positioning towards the car park entrance.
The real upside of this innovation is the unique atmosphere that it creates. With cars slowly passing by the retail outlets, there is a lot of action and activity and the feel is reminiscent of an Asian street food setting in the likes of Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand.
In my view, this is a very courageous retail innovation. It is also an innovation that is being rewarded by a strong mix of retailers, a steady flow of passing traffic both by car and on foot, and a high level of consumer support (judging by my visit).
The property’s owners, developers and leasing agents should be commended for pushing the boundaries with this innovation. From my experience, I can understand that this would not have been an easy sell.
However, they took the hard road, stuck to their plan, believed in and sold their vision, and ultimately delivered something different and unique for which they are being rewarded.
I believe the takeaway message here for the retail sector is to dare to be different!
It is not just consumers that are looking for something different – retailers now recognise they must differentiate their offerings and settings too. So it is collectively up to retail property owners, developers, managers, leasing agents and marketers to lead the charge.
Don’t sell retailers short. They will take a risk and commit to something unique but only if they are sold a coherent and consistent vision and can clearly see the passion and commitment of those responsible for delivering it. For those that are brave enough, the rewards are there for all to share.
By Bev Strickland