‘The department store will be the new mall’ Jeff Gennette, CEO of Macy’s...but what do new malls loo

Here’s one I visited early this year.

As traditional department stores suffer from declining sales there are many new ideas and concepts emerging around how traditional department stores need to evolve from being places that people make purchases to engaging experiences. I read a great interview with Jeff Gennette, CEO of Macy’s, in the Robin Report about just that, you can read it here.

In the interview Gennette talks about how department stores need to be the new mall… but what does the new mall look like?

On recent trips to the US and Berlin I visited two different, but in my opinion, great new shopping malls, worlds apart from the standard shopping centre of the 1990’s that I spent most of my teenage years hanging out in.

In Atlanta, US, Ponce City Market is a great example. The redevelopment of an old warehouse complex, Ponce City Market is a multi functioning development that combines a food market with retail space and residential apartments, described as a place to ‘Gather, Eat & Shop’.

Situated on the Atlanta Belt Line, a former railway line that has been transformed into a cycle path and walkway joining many of the major neighborhoods and city park. On a visit with my colleague we hired bikes and rode along the path which is dotted with sculpture, street art and the odd independent cafe or store for several miles, until we reached the entrance.

There we found a dedicated place for secure bike storage and drinking fountains to refresh. The Food Hall has a collection of small independent local food vendors, trendy restaurants and bars - great for daytime snacking or an evening date.

Retail space was a mix of well known brands like Anthropologie and West Elm and small independents, and on the upper floors trendy residential apartments. There’s an events calendar too; pop up stores, mediation meet ups, pasta making classes and drag queen story time.

The design aesthetic was industrial chic but done well; the original industrial structure of the warehouses retained, concrete ceilings and exposed services, complimented by contemporary versions of old industrial lighting, furniture, fixtures and fittings. Bold graphics used for directional signage and decoration along with coloured glass panels creating a branded feel throughout.

Shopping malls and department stores have always been in the business of entertainment, a place that people spent their leisure time, but how we want to spend our leisure time has changed and some department stores and shopping malls have failed to update their offer and are paying the price. What's great about Ponce City Market is that it understands how people today want to spend their leisure time - it's more about social experiences, food and drinks, events, being connected to the surrounding environment and having access to stores; big brands as well as independents.

In my next post I’ll be sharing insights from Bikinihaus in Berlin.

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