Experiences like dining out, watching a movie or participating in community events continue to be the main reasons people prefer the mall to online shopping, according to the Glimcher Retail Monitor, the first in a series of periodic surveys on the behavior of shoppers in today's changing environment.
Glimcher Realty Trust (NYSE: GRT) designed the inaugural survey to understand why people come to the mall. The results were released Monday during RECon 2013 in Las Vegas.
"The way consumers enjoy the mall has changed. Today, the mall is a destination, offering more than just retail," says Michael Glimcher, chairman of the board and CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based Glimcher. The real estate investment trust owns material interests in and manages 29 properties with total gross leasable area totaling approximately 21.6 million square feet.
"While shopping will always be the primary reason people go to the mall, the survey supported our notion that going to the mall is about the experiences — whether that's having a salad and a glass of wine with your girlfriends or enjoying a movie on a Friday night. People want a mix of retail, restaurants and entertainment," adds Glimcher.
C&T Marketing Group, on behalf of Glimcher Realty Trust, conducted the online survey from April 11 and 12 among 3,344 adults ages 18 and up. An expert on retail and consumer behavior, Dr. Marianne Bickle, director of the University of South Carolina's Department of Retailing, consulted on the project.
The importance of experience retail
The Glimcher Retail Monitor survey results show that shopping at the mall is a social experience. According to the survey, 81 percent of Americans shop with someone. Further, despite today's time-deprived culture, the survey showed people are willing to drive up to 30 minutes to get to the mall and stay one to five hours at the mall on a monthly basis.
In addition to experiences, the mall continues to be the central gathering place in almost every community. Farmer's markets and live music were among the top events shoppers would like to see on a more regular basis at the mall, followed by community events and classes.
Similarly, 52 percent of people surveyed said if stores offered more experiences like yoga classes, cooking demos or workshops, they would visit the mall more frequently.
Half of all shoppers surveyed prefer to shop both at the mall and online, and nearly 30 percent of respondents shop exclusively at the mall. Despite being tech-savvy and daily social media users, only 20 percent of Americans shop exclusively online and even fewer regularly participate in "showrooming" or the process of shopping in stores to see the merchandise but purchasing the product online.
Results of the survey offer further evidence that online shopping continues to grow but cannot compete with malls, which are still preferred because of their ability to offer a tactile experience in a social context. The ability to try on clothes and accessories (74 percent), the shopping experience (55 percent) and store variety (49 percent) were cited as the primary reasons for shopping at the mall. The mall also affords shoppers the ability to buy it today and wear it today.
Survey respondents indicated that a greater variety of stores (65 percent) is the No. 1 way to get them to the mall more frequently, followed by more sit-down restaurants, department stores and entertainment options.
Additionally, when asked about their favorite store at the mall, variety was most frequently listed as the top attribute. When combining the duration and frequency of visits to the mall with the social atmosphere, it is evident mall owners should be looking closely at variety — variety of experiences at the center, variety of stores within the center and even variety of merchandise carried by their tenants.
"The Glimcher Retail Monitor survey findings show consumers seek an all-around shopping experience. From the moment they enter the mall, consumers begin to enjoy the tactile experiences, ambiance of the environment and aromas of the stores and restaurants," says Bickle.
"Malls of the 21st century should provide a balance of entertainment and shopping experiences. As our study demonstrates, the components required to bring in foot traffic include planned entertainment, communication, variety and commitment," adds Bickle.
Glimcher's stock price closed at $13.11 per share on Monday, up from trading at $8.56 per share this time last year.
— Michael Glimcher is chairman of the board and CEO of Glimcher Realty Trust