Stuck in the Middle

Monday 19 June 2017

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Stuck in the Middle

‘Amstelveen again?’ I hear myself say, barely suppressing a sigh. Amstelveen has a great shopping centre, that’s true. I enjoy going there, but every now and then I long for something different. To be surprised. Something new, that fits my personal needs at that specific moment. And my needs aren’t always the same. Shopping with friends? Then I prefer a big city with small boutiques and lots of inspiration. When I am shopping with my kids, I'd rather go to a familiar and convenient place. 

For the last few decades we have seen retail brands positioning themselves. Take, for example, the supermarkets and their razor-sharp positioning. All to make clear to customers what the brand stands for and to better target specific customer needs. Cities have also started using positioning - to promote themselves as the best place for shopping, or the most cultural city of the region. But the lion's share of shopping areas still try to be everything for everyone. The result is a random collection of shops that are absolutely interchangeable. These areas and centres are completely stuck in the middle. No surprises. They feature the same brands and stores as we see in every shopping district.

I am not the only one with different needs on different occasions. Every customer is looking for a fitting answer for different questions. And more and more brands offer a tailored solution. There is an Albert Heijn To Go (or for example, Carrefour express) for on the move. And an Albert Heijn XL for a complete shopping experience. So why isn’t multi format applied to shopping centres yet? A shopping area in the centre of the city is different from one in the upcoming neighbourhood or in a small village. Different locations with different functions. Which need is paramount; price, convenience or experience? What do you want to be famous for? Offering convenience and help for managing a busy life? Or offer a day of experiences and surprises. Don’t get stuck in the middle. Do dare to make choices.

From the moment the choice for a positioning has been made everything should be in line. The choice in retailers, the tone of voice and so on. And dare to go even further. Retail isn’t the only driver of a shopping district. The combination of different functions brings the area to the next level. The first thing that comes to mind is food. Food is a well-known traffic generator. It enhances the experience and lengthens the stay. With food comes choices. A shopping centre with a focus on convenience should choose grab-and-go concepts, whereas a destination centre can make the difference by hosting with the newest food concepts that aim for a longer stay. Dare to go beyond food ceoncepts. A destination centre can also be the perfect place for cinemas, theatres or spas. A convenience centre can be extra relevant by integrating flexible workplaces.

In short, shopping districts shouldn’t try to be everything for everyone. Instead, they should understand both their strengths and weaknesses. Tell your own story. No shopping centre or area can always be the best in everything! But that doesn’t matter. When shopping districts position themselves differently it doesn’t lead to competition. Instead it creates clarity for shoppers. Different needs mean different locations. The shopper will visit more than one centre; which one depends on the need of that moment - whether it's a shopping trip with friends, or picking up new shoes for the kids.

Jasmijn Prinssen

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JosDeVries The Retail Company BV
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3605 MA Maarssen, P.O. Box 1194
NL-3600 BD Maarssen
The Netherlands
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