Merchandising Infrastructure - Time for a Rethink

Visual Merchandising Retail Future

You want to do ...what?

This was the reaction of senior management when, many moons ago, I presented my concept for a fashion parade at a major ‘centre in Perth’s southern suburbs. In the end they gave me my head and let me run amok with their shopping centre. We blacked out all of the skylights so we could use full theatre lighting. We installed a major sound system that surrounded the audience and we turned on a major theatrical event!

Every single show was standing room only.

The sales of all participating stores spiked; even the music store that assisted with the soundtrack saw sales jump by 10%. It was the most successful in-house event they had ever staged.

This is what the ‘Centre of the Future’ needs to be equipped to do.

 Here we go again.

Time and again over the years I have witnessed the major expansion cycle of Perth’s retail centres. We are at the beginning of another such cycle now.

As we continue to follow the U.S. trend of the Mega Mall, suburban retail centres are becoming town centres; mini C.B.D’s in their own right. And, as the battle to keep shoppers in the centres for longer - and to make repeat visits - is waged, we see the inclusion of apartments, more leisure facilities & after hours businesses. 

But some things never change

Over the past three decades – in each of the expansion cycles, I have seen the same thing happen:

Just as the construction phase was being completed – or sometimes well after – the new Marketing Department would begin to think about Christmas and other promotions.

Then they would call me in. My first consideration would always be – where is the infrastructure? Where are the hooks, the power supplies etc?

Usually there was none, or it was inadequate/in the wrong place etc.

Lack of forethought as to the infrastructure for merchandising, events etc is a costly oversight that I have seen happen again and again.

Not only does the infrastructure then have to be retrofitted but the cost & logistics to retrofit major infrastructure – of the type that could have a significant bearing on the cost of future undertakings - would by then be totally prohibitive.

Without appropriate infrastructure, the ongoing costs for say, the installation of Christmas, is significantly inflated for years to come.

What’s ahead?

The ability for a ‘Centre to be truly dynamic; to actually perform as a vibrant town centre into the future is what will give it the edge. The ‘Centre of the future will need to be able to handle major events, multiple events – inside and out.

And ‘events’ into the future may not all be as we conceive them now: just look at Pokémon!

The ‘Centre of the Future’ needs to be equipped for anything!

It will need to be a performance space, a merchandising smorgasbord – with all the latest tech. In addition being a retail centre it is a meeting space, an exhibition space, an entertainment space. It needs to be FLEXIBLE and efficient.

BUT, if cherry pickers & scaffold have to be used to stage these things, they become cost and time prohibitive.

More time to shop, BUT..

Now we have extended retail trading hours & further deregulation is likely. This puts further pressure on the turnaround time for the installation and removal of merchandising, event equipment etc. Again, advance planning, the right equipment & infrastructure will make these processes significantly more time & cost efficient.

Imagine if, instead of your Christmas suppliers having to hire cherry pickers to access the top of you centre void, they could just press a button to lower an electric hoist.

Imagine those same hoists could lift lighting rigs, sound equipment, screens & more.

Imagine if the performance spaces in your Centre were so well designed as performance & merchandising spaces – that acoustic baffles were built into the architecture; that 3-phase power was readily available; that skylights could be blacked out at the push of a button.

Leading the charge

Westfield recently contracted film & television producer Scott Sanders as Creative Head of Global Entertainment.

Westfield co-chief executive Peter Lowy said “entertainment and innovative experiences are an increasingly important part of the overall attraction of Westfield centres, especially those flagship centres in the world’s leading cities”. (see link below)

There is a fundamental shift underway in the understanding of just what the retail centre of the next generation should be doing.

More to follow ......

Related Article 23-09-16: 

BOO Creative (my company) was the driving force in visual merchandising – including Christmas - in Perth for almost 30 years.