| Antonia Lange |
STUTTGART, Germany (dpa) – Customers visiting the Palais Vest shopping centre in Recklinghausen in western Germany can surf for free online, get their electric car recharged or drop their kids off at a play pen while they stroll among the stores.
Milaneo shopping mall in Stuttgart has a same-day home delivery service for its customers. Both shopping centres are a sign that malls in Germany are reconfiguring the visitor experience with the goal of attracting more customers.
“Shopping malls have to work harder to attract attention,” says consumer analyst Marco Atzberger from Germany’s EHI Retail Institute.
“The market is getting smaller and there are fewer suitable places to build malls. Owners have to get more creative.”
Shopping centres are nowhere near as popular as they once were, in part because there are so many of them. At the beginning of 2014 the EHI counted 460 large shopping malls in Germany with an entire floor space of 14.4 million square metres. There are no figures available for the amount of business that was done.
Palais Vest is owned by MFI. The mall used to be called Recklinghausen Arcaden, which is similar to many of MFI shopping centres’ names. MFI is now following a policy of standing out from the crowd as much as possible with the aim of bringing in more shoppers.
“We discovered that our visitors and our store owners want more than just an attractive shopping experience,” said MFI boss Karl Reinitzhuber in an interview for Germany’s business magazine, Wirtschaftswoche. “Achieving that means a centre has to develop its own signature.”
The shopping centre Monchengladbach Arcaden is changing its name to Minto and will be given new areas where customers can relax.
“There’s a big need to revitalise the branch,” says trade analyst Atzberger. “Shopping malls that are 10 years old and more have to reinvent themselves and achieve a new relevance through either renovating the buildings or expanding.”
For this to succeed it’s essential that they offer additional value to customers. But that is easier said than done. The most common stores in German shopping centres are run-of-the-mill franchise pharmacies, hair dressing salons, opticians and home furnishing outlets. None of which can help a shopping mall set itself apart from the rest.
“These top stores like to expand and they demand to be present everywhere,” says Atzberger. “That raises the question for mall management, of how can I make my shopping experience even better?”
One way to do that is to attract a few individual storeowners with unusual products or who have very special offers.
The recently opened Concept Mall Bikini Berlin is following this trend closely. The mall’s management has opted to go for names that are less well known in Germany or have very few branches in the country. There are also several pop-up stores in the centre with short term rent contracts. Along with a large space for events, the mall also has a spacious roof-top terrace that converts into an ice rink in the winter months.
“In future we expect the service aspect, or the range of restaurants on offer, to be very important for the success of a shopping mall,” says Alexander Otto, CEO of the shopping centre operator ECE. The company owns 196 shopping malls and has an annual turnover of 25 billion dollars.
ECE has begun testing apps in its centres in Hamburg and Essen that allow customers to order products with their smartphones from anywhere which they can quickly pick up later.