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Understanding consumer behaviour has never been more important for retailers than it is today.

That statement may seem obvious. But with unprecedented challenges faced in recent years, the retail and leisure sector has had to adapt and quickly.

The increasing threat from online shopping to the pandemic and lockdowns, people’s habits have undoubtedly changed causing considerable pressure for retailers particularly the larger shopping schemes.

But the time poor consumer has spoken, and they expect more. A lot more.

Successful shopping centre brands now focus on being experiential destinations. No longer the place to pop in for a bit of retail therapy, but a place to socialise, spend quality, leisure time with family and friends. This is what will entice people away from their virtual baskets to something real.

If the retail and leisure balance is right, you will have people coming back time and time again. They will travel from further away – not just the usual three-mile radius and therefore impact that all-important dwell time.

At Festival Place in Basingstoke – a top 20 UK shopping centre – agile thinking has meant that while there have been some high profile exits from the likes of Debenhams, the forward-thinking approach has allowed for more space to be dedicated to F&B with the likes of exciting brands such as Five Guys, Cosy Cub and Brewdog – a whole new audience.

Dog-friendly shopping centre

This younger demographic is key to the pursuit of increased footfall. But it’s not just about food and drink. At Festival Place the addition of a trampoline park, escape room and sports centre have all opened up a different, non-traditional demographic. And as Festival Place launches its dog-friendly policy, you don’t even have to curtail your entertainment to get home for the pet pooch!

So, retail marketing has been turned on its head. It’s now, all about destination and lifestyle. Painting pictures and connecting with consumers emotionally. Creating packages, then selling that perfect day out, whether you are twenty something looking for fun with mates, or grandma wanting to spend quality time with grandkids and just about everyone in between. 

No-one is underestimating the challenges leisure and retail brands face. And some traditionalists will always argue for more shopping-specific space. But with the challenges have come new, interesting strategies and certainly new demographics to market to.