Shopping centres are so much more than a place to purchase a new outfit or a loved one’s birthday gift. In recent years, they’ve become an exciting social hub that serves in strengthening communities and shaping urban areas.
Online shopping continues to grow even post-pandemic, meaning it’s never been more important that these complexes continue to differentiate themselves from online retailers, cementing their place in society.
Across the UK, there are around 528 shopping centres that need to stay relevant in the digital age.
What makes shopping centres so opportunistic for brands and communities is the varied footfall. From the solo shopper to the young family looking for fun; the teenagers hanging out to the millennials running errands.
Jade Wilkie, marketing manager of Glasgow-based The Forge Shopping Centre, explores how shopping centres play a crucial role in helping communities thrive.
In many UK cities and towns, events are held throughout shopping centres. The type of events can vary significantly, but most exist with the aim of educating or entertaining an audience.
These occasions give locals the chance to meet new people and have fun from one convenient spot, offering a well-deserved break from shopping or running errands, or just something to do on a Saturday afternoon.
As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, more people are seeking local, budget-friendly activities that don’t compromise on fun or facts.
Many events in shopping centres are either free to attend or significantly cheaper than if they were held in an independent venue.
While they may not make a large profit from these events, shopping centres can still benefit from gaining consumer data, increasing centre awareness, social media exposure, and strengthened loyalty from customers.
The existence of a shopping centre in a town or city means consistent, significant employment opportunities for the local community. And there’s quite a few shopping centres per area!
Let’s take the UK’s biggest shopping centre as just one example. Westfield London spans across 150,000m² (1.615m ft²), which is the same as around 30 football pitches. Inside the precinct is a whopping 255 stores, all of which need local staff to run.
Additionally, there are further employment opportunities beyond retail. Successful shopping centres need security staff, facilities managers, marketing teams, cleaners, and more.
These job opportunities can serve communities in an obvious sense, by providing employment so people can afford housing, food, and utilities, but also by allowing them to explore different career paths. This is especially important for the younger generation.
Jade said: “Everyone in Glasgow will already know just how much community matters to us here at The Forge. We’re always going out of our way to support local people, local businesses, and local charities, understanding that times are incredibly difficult right now and additional opportunities are needed.
“Shopping centres have a responsibility to support their neighbourhood in any way that they can, whether that be through employment or events, and this duty can’t be shied away from.”
Leisure and hospitality
Most centres now have offerings beyond stores and events. Most likely, you’ll find an exciting hub of bars and restaurants among all the shops, or at least a few fast-food options.
This underpins a shopping centre’s place in society as it offers something online retailers can’t…
An opportunity to catch up with family or friends over a bite to eat, or a way to refuel in the middle of a busy shopping spree.
In terms of leisure, the bigger the shopping centre, the more varied the offerings. Predominantly you’ll find a cinema attached to one of these complexes, but in some cases, consumers can even be offered bowling lanes, arcades, and mini golf courses.
These options provide families and teenagers with means of entertainment beyond games consoles and social media apps. As we’re often warned, excessive use of technology can be disruptive to relationships and prevent the development of vital relationship skills and communication skills.
Communities need varied, cost-effective, and more importantly, physical options when it comes to arranging social gatherings and family days out. Shopping centres offer exactly that, which strengthens their place in cities and urban areas.
Shopping centres play a crucial role in supporting the local economy, and not just through the employment opportunities discussed above.
With each complex, significant value is generated from the construction supply chain through direct impacts, indirect impacts, and induced impacts. This means that before a shopping centre has even opened its doors, it has contributed to the economy.
The existence of shopping centres creates local income tax contributions, cost savings to the government, inward investment, and additional growth.
Put simply, a strong economy means a better standard of living, which is why it’s in every community’s best interest to ensure their own is as sturdy as possible.
Shopping centres can’t do it alone
While shopping centres do indeed play such a crucial role in our communities, they can’t uphold their responsibilities without us, the consumers.
These precincts rely on people visiting the centres, buying from shops, and engaging with activities and events. Without this support, they can’t keep assisting the community in all the incredible ways that they’re doing right now.
You should consider this thought the next time you visit a website to make purchase or need to plan the next fun day out with family or friends.
Shopping centres play a critical part in maintaining a healthy, happy community, especially in urban areas. Let’s help them help us.