The mention of leisure centres is enough to take most of us down memory lane as we remember our childhood, the soft play, swimming pools and afternoons spent happily running around while parents sat in the café, probably talking about how tiring their children were. The leisure centre is where you would go on Saturday, a generally healthy activity, bar the pleas from sweets out of the vending machine at the end, but when you’ve spent the afternoon jumping in and out of the pool and running around the soft play, you were never begrudged the bags of space raiders at the end.
Leisure centres now seem part of a forgotten world and instead we now have, shopping malls, the new weekend destination for tired parents and excited families. Once upon a time, shopping malls were just that, big places with lots of shops, however, with the arrival of new complexes like Westfields they have become the new leisure centres of today. No longer a place exclusively for buying things you need, they have become places to dine, to walk, or run, around, exhibitions and entertainment centres. Whether it’s the cinema, ice skating, bowling or Kidzania, there is something in them for everyone, once again, drawing consumers back into the places full of retail opportunities, because once you’re there to meet friends to go to the cinema, popping into Zara or Topshop to ‘just have a look’ is not a huge leap, and as well all know, a look inevitably turns into a purchase.
While the debates around the death of the high street and online shopping heralding the end of retail have been raging, the conversation should in fact be turned to shopping malls and how they’re in fact bringing in a new dawn of shopper experience and retail. The truth is, we do live in an age of consumerism and capitalism, we have always lived in this age, and people are not going to stop wanting things any time soon. As long as social media is thriving, and people consistently share the things they have, other people will always want those things. These are some fundamental facts that underpin the way we live today and so conversations around the demise of retail are quite frankly futile at best.
However, the ways in which we choose to consume that retail will change and that’s the very thing that brands need to stay ahead of. How do they secure spaces in these new ‘leisure centres’, and then how do they become an appealing space for families. Or even just consumers who are walking around with no intention to buy. What experience are they creating and how does it enrich consumers? That’s the real question here because retail isn’t going anywhere, but now we have malls and they have become the latest destination of choice, in fact, they have become our new weekend pastime.