Reviving a Mall

A smaller mall that we visit occasionally was in the doldrums. Only a fraction of its shop lots was tenanted and the tenanted ones were drab and dreary, contributing inevitably to low foot traffic. Remarkably, over the span of a couple of years, the owners managed to revive the mall. From our observations, this was achieved through a three step process: 1) food court 2) retail mix and 3) ambience, in that order. More details below, the above image is for illustration only.

The Food Court
  • In an inspired move, the mall managed to recruit cottage artisans to provide home-styled food.
  • These new stalls are run mainly by womenfolk and their family members.
  • By contrast, malls would usually define tenancies by rental and lease.
  • The pressure of both attracts businesses but not necessarily artisans.
  • The difference between artisanal food and commercial food is substantial.
  • The food court, which before had 'more flies than customers', is well patronized nowadays.
  • A triple win for artisans, good food and the mall.

Retail Mix & Ambience
  • Another notable step the mall made was to sign up Mr DIY, a chain which seems to thrive even at the sleepiest retail spaces.
  • Side note: In the DIY space, beyond Mr DIY, Daiso and Ace Hardware, there are a number of comparable players in terms of range and pricing, including two from Borneo: SuperSave and Ninso.
  • For the retail mix, unlike the artisanal thrust for the food court, the mall largely replaced unbranded retailers with branded ones.
  • Concurrently, the mall upgraded its UX: better air, temperature and olfactory conditioning, softer lighting, and a more upmarket interior design.

Footnote: What is 'Artisanal Food'?
  • In the context of this post, it refers to food that is more like home cooking:
  • Traditional dishes and recipes.
  • Menu that changes often, or no fixed menu.
  • Less, infrequent or no deep fried items.
  • More finesse and care with cooking (less pressured by commercial matters).
  • More use of fresh ingredients and less use of canned or packaged sauces etc.