Constant evolution is key to a successful shopping centre, says Ikano’s Christian Olofsson

Being the President, Megabangna, and Regional Business Development Manager, Ikano (Ikea’s franchisee in South East Asia) in Thailand keeps Christian Olofsson on his toes. He has 17 years of retail, project management and real estate experience. Recently in Mumbai to take a master class at Indian Shopping Centre Forum 2014, Oloffson talked about shopping centres, retailers, visual mercandising and more to, The Hindu Metro Plus.

Olofsson defined a successful shopping centre as “one which is positioned correctly to provide maximum shopping convenience to its target customers and maximum exposure to its tenants for driving their sales.” Customers have to be drawn to the shopping centre for their first visit and later compelled to revisit not once but several times.

The initial attraction, he highlighted, “is through visual merchandising.” A vital aspect, especially in large malls with a lot of shops. “Each shop must have an exciting shop window. This enables the customers to know and makes the products visible and appealing,” commented Christian, adding that this “helps in providing choice and helping in making customer’s mind.”

Another significant factor is touch point. “This is particularly important in case of fashion-related goods.”

Said Olofsson, “Fashion segment requires mannequins or pop-ups to draw consumer attention.” Elaborating on it, he said in order to attract people of all age groups, the centre ought to have sessions like a master class on make up or skin-care products for youngsters and offers on educational aids, guitar lessons, language tuitions for older segment of consumers.

Equally important “are facilities offered by the mall”, like washrooms, playing area for children, eating joints catering to different tastes at affordable prices. “The teenagers would like to have a quick bite and a drink whereas a mother with her children would prefer a place to sit and enjoy her meals with the family,” he explained.

According to Olofsson, shopping experience in itself “is not enough to sustain a mall. They now need to integrate other facilities like banking, pharmacy, payment towards utilities, etc. to make the visit to a shopping centre enjoyable and gainful.”

In this, entertainment too plays a major role. “With different formats of cinema like 3D, 4D and Imax, malls with movie halls are bound to attract as well as prolong the stay of guests in the centre,” highlighted Olofsson.

All these effort, he said, “is towards meeting the end of ensuring steady footfall and increasing business for retailers because for the shopping centre owner, the number one customer is the tenant and visitor is the tool that drives the tenants to the centre. He said, “A well maintained and functioning centre is an important expectation of the tenants from the shopping centres,” adding, “they want and expect trust, approachability, easy feedback mechanism, performance indicators, etc.”

With regard to the threat of e-trade on retailing, the Ikano representative said, “This is bound to effect IT shops, booksellers, mobile stores, etc. In order to stave it off, shopping centres have to evolve and constantly change to attune to the needs and requirements of their clients.”

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