New anchors of shopping centers

October 26, 2015

Restaurants, bars and cafes in shopping centers have become the new magnets for other businesses as shopping centers across Europe are the preferred destination for eating and drinking.

Times change rapidly: 10-15 years ago visitors went to shopping centers mainly to do their shopping and have a cup of coffee or have a drink afterwards. During special weekends, Xmas or Easter they might spend a bit more time to relax there. Now the picture is different: after many years of economic crisis most people cut their spending on clothes, fridge or furniture, but spend more time and money in restaurants, bars and coffee shops within the nearby shopping center.

CBRE, a leading international real estate consultancy made a special survey on the attitude of visitors across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The views of 22,000 consumers in 22 countries across these regions showed that 41% preferred to eat in shopping centers compared to 10% in restaurants and cafes on the high street, and 7% in retail parks. A third of those interviewed visited shopping centers with the sole intention of eating or drinking. Only four out of ten then went on to shop even if their reason for visiting the center was just to eat or drink.

Interestingly in the UK 65% of the respondents rated the availability of food and beverage important, while just under half (47%) would visit the shops afterwards. With these numbers the UK lags behind the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.

To start the construction phase of a commercial center real estate developers, in cooperation with center management companies tend to secure so called anchor tenants. They are usually global chains such as Marks&Spencer, H&M, Media Markt, Tesco or an entertainment company like Cinema City. Food providers have traditionaly been in the second tier. Now the picture has changed dramatically and they are on the level of the big clothes or household appliances chains. Center managers prefer to have at least one big name to serve as a magnet to lesser known brands in the food and beverage industry. International coffee chains are good examples of that in Hungary and all over Europe.

Andrew Phipps, Head of Retail Research and Consulting, CBRE, EMEA said: “It is clear that the presence of a compelling food and beverage offer is key to driving footfall and revenue to a shopping center.The days have gone when a limited fast food offer or a drab food court was sufficient reason to visit. Now they are a draw themselves and the lure of a well-conceived and excellently delivered eating and drinking experience is what really gets consumers excited.”

These trends are present in Hungary as well. According to the latest exit poll survey of Polus Shopping Center in district 15 of Budapest, nearly 20% of customers arrive to Polus to eat. The survey - conducted by Median Research Institute - showed that visitors consider the food court the second most popular place in the mall. Half of the people surveyed find the food court and its offers key when choosing a shopping center.

Researches proved that food courts’ supply, comfort and cleanliness have significant importance for visitors. Thus Polus paid special attention to refurbishing the environment of its food court and the ice rink, located in the central area of the mall.

“We refurbished the facade of the restaurants and cafes, changed the tiles and modernized the furniture, providing a brand new atmosphere to this part of the mall. We rebuilt the entrance of Polus Cinema and moved it closer to the restaurants. As a result, the food court became much more transparent and comfortable, with increased seating capacity. Following the refurbishment, we welcomed new tenants such as Salad Box to the food court that chose Polus Center for its first location in Hungary. In addition, we have ongoing negotiations with other restaurant chains.” – said Fruzsina Monok, Center Manager of Polus.

Apart from good eating and drinking options visitors are increasingly looking for unique leisure experiences too, such as fitness centers within commercial centers. Working out used to be a fairly straightforward affair: some weights, some cardio, maybe a trip to the sauna, then back to the locker room and on your way. No longer. With the recent boom in boutique fitness business gym-goers today have more exercise options than they do muscle groups.

“Boutique clubs are now the main drivers of growth in the fitness segment in the U.S. From 2012 to 2013, for instance, such gyms grew their median chain net membership by 16.7 percent and revenues by 8.6 percent, compared to 0.9 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively, for larger, traditional-format gyms.”, writes an expert of CBRE's newly launched Blueprint blog.

The brands in this rapidly growing boutique fitness segment are by and large targeting similar upscale urban and suburban demographics, placing them in competition for desirable locations. “Particularly in the urban cores where many have targeted their studios thus far, suitable spaces can be hard to come by” – he adds.


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