Centres of attraction
12 December, 2012
The shopping mall is becoming a place people go to for more than just shopping: increasingly they are there for the eating out experience as well. David Martin looks at the trends
The high street may be struggling in the face of online retailing, but the combination of shopping and eating is an increasingly tempting combination for major shopping mall operators in the UK. Hammerson, Capital Shopping Centres and Land Securities are all talking up, and driving up, foodservice.
The move is at the heart of a strategy to extend trading hours, lengthen dwell times and widen catchment areas, through an enhanced ambience and an upgraded visitor experience. Mall owners’ intentions are clear, from the extension of the Wintergarden “fast-food and family dining village” at Bluewater in Kent, and the MetrOasis restaurant development in Gateshead this year, to the opening of Trinity Leeds in March 2013, where foodservice will now occupy 20% of the space, up from the initial planned 12%.
This movement is about quality as much as quantity. The mall owners want to cover the whole spread of dwell times and dining spend levels. Witness the champagne bar at the Metrocentre in Gateshead, and the move of D&D restaurants into Trinity Leeds.
The major malls have also reported above-market footfall trends this year, gaining market share from the conventional high street. Their magnetism is growing, and that has much to do with the wider leisure offer, and foodservice in particular.
Our latest Peach BrandTrack survey has for the first time examined the reach of the shopping malls generally, and specifically in terms of eating out. The numbers are impressive: the draw of these centres, not just for retail but also for foodservice, is powerful.
We asked our sample of some 5,000 out-of-home diners which of 18 defined major out-of-town and in-town malls they had visited in the previous six months. Over half of our sample (56%) had visited one, and 62% of these visitors also say they have eaten at one of the centres in the previous six months. In other words these centres as a group have served food to more than one in three of all the people we surveyed.
Individually the pulling power of some of the biggest retail malls is striking. Although Westfield Stratford made all the news in Olympics year, it is the Trafford Centre in Manchester that is used by more out-of-home diners than any other centre. Indeed, five of the top six most visited centres are in the North and Midlands.
In terms of foodservice usage, the Trafford Centre again leads. One in 20 of all out-of-home diners has eaten there in the past six months, just ahead of Westfield Stratford, Meadowhall in Sheffield, the Bullring in Birmingham and Liverpool One.
That is a measure of market penetration, but what about customer penetration for food usage in each centre? Our survey asked about visiting and eating within the past six months, but even on that arguably generous time-frame, the figures for individual centres are markedly different, ranging from a maximum of 61% at (again) the Trafford Centre, and thecentre:mk in Milton Keynes, down to 35% and under, at the Victoria Centre, Nottingham, and the Oracle, Reading.
So, not only does the Trafford Centre pull in more out-of-home visitors than any other, it pulls in more diners than any other, and is the best at converting its visitors to dining. If there is an exemplar of the future day-out destination model for the retail mall, the Trafford Centre is the benchmark.
There is no simple link between retail centre penetration, and the degree to which a mall’s visitors eat out when there. Among the centres with the biggest reach, there is a difference in dining participation between the off-centre destinations of Meadowhall, the Trafford Centre and Westfield Stratford, compared to the central-city locations of Manchester’s Arndale and the Bull Ring.
At the other extreme, several of the centres with a comparatively small reach appear to be particularly successful in converting large proportions of their visitors to dining, notably the centre:mk, Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, and Braehead in Glasgow, compared to centres such as Highcross in Leicester and The Oracle, Reading.
The mall visitor
Although in combination the major malls and centres we researched reach an impressively large population, their visitor profile is distinctively different from the out-of-home dining audience as a whole, and in many ways it is more attractive to foodservice marketers:
* Mall users are more upmarket and younger
* They are more likely to have young children
* They eat out more frequently
* They access social media more frequently
* They are aware of, will consider using, and eat out at more brands
The right match of brand to retail mall will clearly depend on the nature of the catchment area, but if we combine data for all the major malls and centres we researched, it is striking that mall visitors as a group have a higher propensity to have eaten out at all the brands we measure in BrandTrack in the past six months (irrespective of where they dined).
Indexing brand usage figures for mall visitors against the out-of-home dining norm, we see a stronger skew to casual dining brands, rather than pub brands, although the brand with the single biggest skew, Miller & Carter, started life with suburban pub roots, before migrating towards retail and leisure locations. Other brands with high shopping mall usage among their customers include Las Iguanas, Eat, YO! Sushi and Wagamama.
The power of the retail malls for the foodservice sector cannot be overstated. We have already identified that a third of out- of-home diners have eaten at one of the 18 major centres we researched. But just focusing on the seven major super-malls outside London (Trafford, Meadowhall, Cribbs Causeway in Bristol, Lakeside in Essex, Braehead, Metrocentre and Bluewater), the figure is as much as one in six.
There is no doubt that these regional centres are the future winners in physical retailing. They are the fittest for today’s consumer purpose, and they will do more than survive, they will thrive at the expense of secondary mainstream centres. Not only that but we have shown that they attract a more frequent, affluent, family dining audience. Is it time your dining-out brand went shopping?
The shopping malls with the strongest pulling power
% of out of home diners who have visited specific shopping malls
Trafford Centre, Manchester 8%
Westfield Stratford 7%
Birmingham Bullring 7%
Arndale, Manchester 6%
Meadowhall, Sheffield 6%
One, Liverpool 5%
Westfield Shepherds Bush 5%
Lakeside, Thurrock 4%
Metrocentre, Gateshead 4%
Bluewater, Dartford 4%
The shopping malls with the strongest pulling power - for dining
% of out of home diners who have dined at specific shopping malls
Trafford Centre, Manchester 5%
Westfield Stratford 4%
Meadowhall, Sheffield 3%
Birmingham Bullring 3%
One, Liverpool 3%
How many visitors to shopping malls claim to dine there?
% of mall's own visitors who have dined there in the last six months
ThecentreMK, Milton Keynes 61%
Meadowhall, Sheffield 58%
Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth 58%
St David's, Cardiff 58%
Braehead, Renfrewshire 57%
Bluewater, Dartford 56%
Metrocentre, Gateshead 55%
Westfield Stratford 54%
One, Liverpool 52%
Westfield Dudley 51%
Lakeside, Thurrock 48%
Westfield Derby 47%
Westfield Shepherd's Bush 47%
Cribbs Causeway, Bristol 45%
Brent Cross, London 44%
Birmingham Bullring 43%
Cabot Circus 40%
Eldon Square, Newcastle 39%
Arndale, Manchester 38%
High Cross, Leicester 36%
Victoria Centre, Nottingham 35%
The Oracle, Reading 32%
Souce: Peach BrandTrack, October 2012, Sample 4,860, source Toluna
David Martin is principal of Red Circle www.redcircleinsight.co.uk.
For full BrandTrack analysis of brands with a high shopping mall affinity, call Peter Martin on 01794 550383.