PR Account Manager, Philippa, watched the box office hit ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and was inspired to research the retail industry in Asia to see how UK retail scene could mimic Asia's retail successes

If you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably heard about it. The latest film that has got everyone talking, Crazy Rich Asians. Based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, the film casts an ordinary American woman into the uber rich world of Singapore’s elite.

Singapore now ranks with Denmark economically (Guardian.com), and is the biggest economic success story of the last several decades. In fact, it is projected that the value of retail sales in Asia Pacific will reach US$11.8 trillion by 2021 making the region one of the largest and fastest growing markets globally. This growth has been influenced by factors such as rising income levels and the social experience of going to the mall as time to spend with family and friends where buying is not the only priority.

Online to offline retail is thriving in this area of the globe. brands such as Alibaba are driving online customers into offline stores. On the reverse side, retailers such as grocery stores are creating unmanned store concepts so consumers can scan, shop and pay via mobile wallets.

So, in what other areas does Asian retail differ from UK retail. And, what can UK shopping centres do to follow in their success?

Lifestyle centres

Lane 189, a shopping destination in Shanghai, has been built to re-position the typical mall into a vertical city centre. Featuring a vertical public square, this ‘lifestyle centre’ provides a place for Shanghai’s young professionals to meet. The shopping experience is no longer about buying things. Instead, it is transforming into being about spending time and having elements such as play, housing, dining, exercise, education and entertainment. In other shopping malls, consumers can enjoy outdoor theatres and buy artwork from global creative talents.

The UK retail scene is waking up to the realisation that people don’t just want to visit shopping centres to shop. They want more. We are now hearing about developers bringing residential and office space above UK shopping centres. Plus, we are seeing F&B taking up higher percentages of shopping centres than ever before.

Vacant units

It’s not always about building a new shopping centre to fit in with the change in trends. Instead, shopping destinations that have been around for years are adapting to the shifting demands too. One example of this is to replace vacant units that may have once been marketed at retailers, and turn them into children’s play areas, food and beverage outlets, spas, anything that could lead to increasing dwell time in the centre.

As a commercialisation specialist, Shoppertainment has been doing this for over 17 years and works to create multi-layered experiences and work with a number of retailers in the centre to get everyone involved. To find out more, contact our team.

Don’t forget the smaller retailers

It’s not all about the huge brands. Some centres in Asia are also reinventing and giving more power to small stores to better serve locals. Known as ‘Mom and Pop’ stores, they can take the form of a kiosk or an RMU and can give shopping centres the chance to meet the ever-changing needs of shoppers. Meanwhile, small businesses can use this way as a stepping stone into a new market.

The concept of made-to-order and small- and mid-sized store format has been adopted increasingly by retailers to appeal to tastes of specific demographics. One example of this is The BonBonist’s- a sweet shop that has opened up in Swire’s Pacific Place and Cityplaza malls in Hong Kong. This was initially an online sweet shop that has now moved into pop up shops.

Targeting all generations

A study conducted in 2017 shows that the top three priorities for affluent Asian millennials were health, travel and spending time with family. Destinations in Asia have listened to this and work to target the whole family in the hope that encouraging families into their malls will result in them spending money on goods.

One way malls are targeting families is to include activities for children such as adventure playgrounds, shopping for the parents and grandparents and then large F&B areas for families to rest and relax after their activities. Activity-based tenants such as gyms, health centres and virtual reality arcades are expected to occupy most of the retail mix in Singapore due to there being a big focus on wellness. It’s these added extras that will draw in new consumers who are looking for convenience all in one place.

We are seeing some forms of this in UK shopping centres, such as gym operators taking up units and we see wellness stores often in the form of pop ups or as part of an event. However, maybe we need to look at the permanent services on offer to appeal to different demographics so the mall space is seen as more than just a place to go shopping? Or, maybe we will see more organic spas or teeth whitening dental clinics opening in malls near us!?

A place for everyone

There is a focus on shopping destinations to create space away from the shops. Centres are often seen as extensions of communities and places where people can relax, socialise with friends, work (either office space or co-working space) and live. Therefore, developers are doing all they can to create spaces with their own personalities. Also, the more public space a centre has, the more they can generate additional traffic for the malls.

Some malls are even building event-ready spaces so entertainers can come along and have everything they need (stage/lighting). One centre in Singapore is the first of its kind to have a community club space within the centre.

Nee Soon Central Community Club inside the Northpoint City development will be home to a conference and seminar room as well as offering community classes such as cake making and dressmaking.


Shopping Centre Events

Create a full diary of fitness events that rotate through the year in a vacant unit. For example: yoga, spin classes, meditation zones.


Open a community club that is permanently housed within the centre. This will create a constant flow of people using this shopping centre space throughout the day.  For example: mother and baby classes and youth groups.

Food and Beverage

Food and beverage choices can be explored around the clock. For example, breakfast and brunch, lunch, tea and evening drinks.

Promotional Space

Ensure all vacant space is used and establish a commercialisation strategy that works with all of the above. This will bring new experiences to shoppers and assist with increasing centre dwell time and footfall.

At Shoppertainment, we specialise in commercialisation strategies for shopping centres. Get in touch to see how we can boost footfall at your centre.

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