The 2023 competition focuses on one of the biggest challenges facing not just retail, but all urban spaces and societies around the world. For the last 60 years, our towns and cities have been shaped and redefined by major shopping malls and with it, retail too. They became the anchors and the heart of urban development and social activities.
That era has now come to an end as department store anchors have closed and other retail tenants exited. In many countries, retail has been seen to have become “over-stored” with too much space chasing declining offline sales which had led to many retailers starting store closure programmes. The pandemic has accelerated this process to the extent that those town and city centres without a viable and radical strategy are in serious danger of declining irrevocably and with it the social fabric of those centres. It has been forecast that 25% of US malls will close within the next few years and in the UK, between 2016 and 2021, 83% of department stores - the anchors of so many malls - closed according to CoStar and the Financial Times.
Shopping mall owners and developers are now facing a real crisis and an urgent need to reinvent and rethink the purpose of large retail spaces such as malls. In a post-pandemic world that has seen ecommerce grow dramatically and towns and city centres decimated by the closure of retail, leisure and office spaces, one of the biggest questions is around what can be done to reverse this decline.
There is strong evidence that consumers are returning to stores but their expectations are higher and more testing than ever before and although online growth is slowing, it is clear that those consumers demand a seamless experience between on and offline and they are looking for new reasons to visit established destinations.