The Role Transition of a Retail Venue in Chinese Daily Life

When I was a school girl back in 2000s, I always went shopping with my mum in some familiar department stores. Hunting for a pretty dress or a pair of cool trainers was the only reason for me to visit a 6-floor department store.

Today when I’m thinking of meeting friends, hanging out, or simply killing time, the first thing to pop up in my mind is – which shopping mall to go to? Which one has got the nicest or most famous cafes, dessert chains, restaurants; which has the best cinema; and also very importantly, which has got the coolest or funkiest environment?

Shopping?  I beg your pardon? 80% of my shopping has moved online now – no matter apparel, skin care, cosmetics, fruit, vegetables, meat or fish… even a pet!

Sometimes I still do shopping in a shopping mall, but most of the time, shopping happens in between the journeys for a coffee, meal, or movie.

Sure, the change of my consuming behavior and my peers have been an important driver for the evolution of a shopping mall in China. You could also say, we (consumers and shopping malls) are adapting and fitting for each other in the changing times.

Take Shanghai as an example. In a common scenario, the basement floor connects to the metro station, with simple, affordable F&B (Food & Beverage), and/or small supermarkets occupying the floor for quick pay and go. Moving up the levels, the 4th and 5th  floors include  a diverse range of restaurants, cinemas, art exhibitions and/ or book shops together with a cosy cafe. Between these floors are the retail brands which can be nice destination for between-meal-time activities.  My peers and I often spend a half day within the mall, ending up buying loads of stuff such as too-cool-for-working T-shirts, earrings,  or gifts for friends.

It is no exaggeration to say, these experiential areas (F&B, cinemas, etc.) have become the real anchors to drive the customer flow in retail venues nowadays. In some cases, they could take up over 50% space of a shopping mall, for constantly bringing good numbers of visitors. One thing is for sure: a mall without good F&B will sooner or later become a disaster.

As a result, it is also true to retailers: If you are facing multiple choices of shopping malls to locate, the ones with good F&B will always be a key attribute to tick off, and could be one of the “golden rules” in selecting a retail venue in China.

One area of my exciting work in Geolytix is to explore the various retail venues data across the key cities in China and to evaluate the quality and strength for each of them. If you are looking for any insights or planning to expand in China, please call and see how we can help!