Economies of scale


The availability of space in shopping centres is creating some exciting opportunities for sports and outdoor businesses.

This more diversified offer has a positive effect on KPIs. At intu Derby, for example, after leisure units opened in 2016, evening footfall increased by over 25%. With such positive statistics, it’s easy to understand why landlords are looking beyond their shop windows to fill space and draw visitors into their shopping centres.

The introduction of a leisure activity serves multiple purposes:

  1. Creating a day out destination and driving multiple reasons to visit. Customer experience has been a focal point for retail destinations in recent years, introducing leisure activities creates entertainment and excitement.

  2. Filling vacant and unused space. It is widely acknowledged that retailers are no longer acquiring space due to the rise of online shopping, as a result, landlords are thinking creatively about how to fill space while driving footfall and maximising the value of their asset.

There are now many different and creative examples of how centres are using space. On a small scale, ping pong tables are new additions to vacant units in small shopping centres in the UK such as Grosvenor Centre in Northampton and Kings Mall in Hammersmith. These act to mitigate business rates, increase dwell time and create a more interesting experience for shoppers.

On a slightly bigger scale high wires and climbing walls are a recent trend with shopping centres profiting from previously inaccessible space high above walkways. An example of this is in Scotland where Aerial Adventures, a high wire and zip line specialist, has set up a rock-climbing wall, free fall drop and zip lines in The Centre, Livingston and East Kilbride Shopping Centre, Glasgow (seen above).

Further escalating the scale of offer, Bear Grylls Adventure, labelled as an adventure theme park, opened in late 2018 in Birmingham. Here there are multiple challenges and activities which visitors can enjoy including high ropes, an obstacle course, indoor sky diving and scuba diving. While not immediately part of a shopping centre, the park is an addition to the existing food & beverage-led Resorts World scheme which opened in October 2015. Combining the two offers enables a full day-out experience for the family.

One of the most recent and innovative schemes to combine leisure and shopping is X-Madrid. While still in concept phase the development intends to bring multiple activities such as skating, surfing, rock climbing, virtual reality and exhibitions alongside shopping. The scheme proposed to integrate its leisure offer into the structure of the building, with the rock-climbing wall being a key feature built into an external wall. By weaving skating and exhibitions into the shopping centre walkways and making retail more of a fashion showcase, no two visits to the scheme are the same, driving increased visit frequency and spend.

Another example, on a larger scale is the partnership between Cirque du Soleil and Ivanhoé Cambridge (Canadian real estate agents) which will see the theatre company open its first entertainment centre in Vaughan Mills shopping mall, greater Toronto later this year. Cirque du Soleil’s so-called `Creactive' centre will offer acrobatics, bungee jumping, aerial parkour, trampolines and juggling, helping the shopping centre diversify and fill empty shop fronts. The strength of Cirque du Soleil's brand will drive footfall and dwell time and will likely improve performance across the rest of the shopping centre.

With the continued challenges the high street and shopping centres face enticing shoppers, it is likely we will see more creative and innovative leisure activities taking over shopping centres.

Jo Biddle