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Are Shopping Centres Heading Towards Becoming ‘Lifestyle Destinations’?

The purpose of the shopping centre was once simply as the title states, to provide a passive place for consumers to make purchases and then leave having fulfilled this aim. Now, people want experiences more than ever, fuelled by the dominance of social media and its influencers. This has seen retail sales fall by 3.1%, the biggest decline since 1995.

Even though wages are beginning to steadily rise more quickly than goods prices, consumers have shifted from wanting ‘stuff’ to wanting ‘experiences’, creating a longer lasting consumer high. This, combined with the rise in ecommerce, has lead to shopping centres moving into the lifestyle space to try and keep up with the demand for experiences and encourage consumers to move away from online shopping and back into brick-and-mortar shops.

In an attempt to avoid the looming retail crisis, centres are now integrating several activity offerings into their space, giving more reasons to visit than just shops. In a bid to provide an immersive experience that creates a sense of community, cinemas, restaurants, ice rinks, gyms, bowling alleys and arcades are just some of the offerings that shopping centres are introducing.

Consumers are now able to head to their local shopping centre for a number of reasons, rather than simply the act of purchasing goods. This entices them to spend more time within the centre and ultimately, even if attending to take part in a leisure activity, it’s likely they will be encouraged to visit at least one shop during their visit– even if just for an everyday purchase as they pass, rather than an investment purchase.

We’re seeing this shift from shopping centre to ‘lifestyle centre’ becoming increasingly common throughout the nation, as the Intu Group have, and are continuing to, acquire a host of shopping centres across the UK and beyond.

Taking over some of the biggest shopping centres in the UK, including intu Trafford Centre, intu Metrocentre and intu Lakeside, Essex, the Intu Group plan over the next three years to invest a further £600m to continue to create sought after shopping and lifestyle destinations.

According to Julian Wilkinson, Asset Management Director at Intu Group “the modern shopping centre is in fact now an everyday leisure touch point for many different reasons, with people meeting for a coffee, a lunch break, convenience purchase or a weekday out with friends and loved ones. Saturday has always been the traditional day for shopping but we’re seeing the rest of the week becoming increasingly important. With the focus on shopping destinations over purely shopping centres, we see this continuing to change along with opening hours of centres as leisure activity drives up the length of the shopping day”.

Having your business reside within a lifestyle centre secures the huge advantage of high footfall and longer and more frequent shopping days. However, as suggested by Jon Bird, Executive Director, Global Retail & Shopper Marketing at VMLY&R, “the centres that remain will no longer be “shopping” centres. Instead, they will be “dining, leisure and entertainment” centres, where shopping is an adjunct (and a desirable outcome), but not necessarily the reason to go there in the first place.”

Therefore, now more than ever retailers need to up their game to cater to the demands of consumers – how can you capitalise on the rise of ‘lifestyle centres’ as a retail business?

In order to get consumers back into physical stores instead of relying on the ease of online shopping, retailers must provide an engaging experience that simplifies the way consumers shop and brings added value that shopping online does not.

A report by Cushman & Wakefield titled ‘UK High Streets: Dead or Alive’  suggests that “destinations of the future will continue to be influenced by who/which developments can embrace and develop the digital revolution. Retail destinations that can integrate new digital technology into their existing architecture will be the schemes that thrive in the future.” And so those that adopt new technologies and enhance the shopping experience for consumers are more likely to be successful in avoiding the retail crisis.

There are many ways you can make use of technology to create an integrated experience for customers. If your target market is spending more time online, then find ways to encourage them back into the store.

Offer a Click & Collect service

According to Retail Focus, Click & Collect is driving shopping centre footfall and boosting sales, with shoppers using the service spending 40% more than others in stores at Westfield London. Getting your customers back in your premises is half the battle; once they’re in, you can further encourage purchases by adapting your physical space.

Shop Redesign and Refit

A rethink of your physical store may be what it takes to make customers feel curious about your brand again. Creating a fresh and innovative space gives customers more reason to step foot inside. Embrace digital transformation by adding elements such as advertising boards, interactive displays, digital window displays and more. Adding appealing visuals with large format equipment can transform your space with minimal upheaval but maximum impact.


Use your digital marketing efforts to drive footfall and sales in your store by creating offers that can only be redeemed in-store. To make this even more effective, personalise these offers by segmenting your existing database by customer preference and shopping habits, and sending out ‘first purchase’ offers to those who aren’t yet a loyal customer. Whether by email or through the use of direct mail and print collateral, you can drive customers in-store by reaching them outside.

If you’re ready to change the shopping experience as your customers know it but just aren’t sure how to get there, we can help. At AlphaGraphics we specialise in enhancing the shopping experience through the use of bespoke marketing materials, strategies and large format solutions for retail businesses. Get in touch with us today on 0191 5800915 or email us at


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