Friday, May 06, 2011

The Future of Retail

Pat's Sbarro post got my noodle turning on retail. Around the turn of the century two relatively new forms of brick and mortar retail emerged: the power center and the lifestyle center. Both are squarely aimed at enclosed mall customers. And between the two they've successfully killed of enclosed mall construction.

You'll know a power center when you see it. I don't have any good pictures because quite frankly they usually look like parking garages. They don't usually flaunt an identity. I had to do some searching to find out the one in Buckhead is called Buckhead Station. There's also one in Dallas near Northpark Mall. The basic idea is that you take several big box retail stores and build a parking garage connecting them all. There will also usually be a small smattering of inline stores, but nothing like you'll find in a typical enclosed mall corridor. A power center is more or less a strip mall of big box stores.

The lifestyle center is a descendant of the outdoor mall. The idea is to make a mall look like a downtown area. You have your shops lined up and your parking right in front of the store but in reality you're never going to find a spot in front of the store and will instead have to park somewhere behind the "downtown" area. Here are some better shots of Southlake Town Square which I mentioned in Pat's Sbarro post. You can see in photo 9 how the parking lots are not easily visible from the street areas.

Southlake's arrangement is somewhat unique in that it really is their town square now. Other lifestyle centers like The Avenue at Forsyth (GA), The Forum at Peachtree Corners (GA), or Firewheel (TX) don't have the downtown amenities but do have the outdoor greenspace and greater variety of stores (compared to modern enclosed malls).

Even enclosed malls are adopting some elements of the lifestyle center. An outdoor dining entertainment area has been built in place of dead anchors in malls such as Perimeter Mall (GA) and Cumberland Mall (GA). Mall of Georgia was built with an outdoor area with greenspace, a group of outdoor stores, and outdoor access to the enclosed mall stores that border the open area.

It's interesting to me that we've gone back outside. Malls were enclosed for a reason. I really want to check out Southlake on a rainy Saturday to see if it has a noticeable impact on the shoppers, but it hasn't exactly rained much since I've been here. I'm also curious in Southlake's case of tying the downtown to the mall. Enclosed shopping malls have a terrible track record of enduring success. Most of them get a 10-20 year shot clock before falling apart. Many lifestyle centers are just passing a decade now. If they have the same shelf life as an enclosed mall, how will that affect the city of Southlake or any other city who has such a strategy?

2 comments:

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I find it a uniquely American pathology that our commercial suburban culture would turn their back on downtown, city square type areas in favor of creating downtown, city square type areas somewhere else.

anne said...

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Shopping malls are usually the place people were ought to be. They spend their time to entertain and relaxed. This is to enjoy their selves despite of those hardworking days. Even me, during weekends I spend my time on shopping malls with my friends. We enjoy hanging out into this place.