Shopping Centers “Sell” Experiences To Attract Customers

Written by: Gilma Avalos

NORTH TEXAS (CBS11) – At a time when traditional anchor stores like Macy’s are closing locations across the country and customers are turning to the convenience of online shopping, store owners and developers are starting to think outside of the retail box.

Customers are no longer just interested in buying goods, said Edward Manuel, Senior Vice President of Development for Trademark Property. He said they want experiences.

“We are in the middle of an experience-driven economy,” said Manuel.

To avoid the demise of the traditional mall, modern shopping centers and developers must adapt to an evolving customer.

“Everything we do is surrounded around creating experiences,” he explained.

Trademark Property is behind Fort Worth’s new Waterside open-air shopping center.

It boasts anchor stores like Whole Foods Market and REI.

The 63-acre mixed use development also has amenities centered around providing experiences.

Tucked behind Taco Diner and Whole Foods Market is The Grove, a public space meant for everyone–not just shoppers–to enjoy.

There are corn hole toss boards and bocce ball courts. A community pavilion, invites people to sit back, watch a game on a big flat screen TV, meet friends, or sip on a beverage.

“It’s very inviting [there are] lots of places to sit and relax,” said Isaac Towne, who often spends lunch breaks at The Grove.

On a sunny afternoon, he enjoyed a buttermilk popsicle from Steel City Pops, and a good book. But he says he doesn’t feel any pressure to shop.

The park is dotted by creations from Austin artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade, which honor the area’s history.

“These were old children’s play equipment from the Lockheed Martin Recreation Association days,” said Manuel.

Experiences are also on the menu inside Waterside’s restaurants and shops.

“Dining is much more than just eating. It’s about a total experience,” said Chef Marcus Paslay.

His new restaurant, Piattello Italian Kitchen, features a coffee bar and an open air kitchen.

“You can sit at the pizza bar here and watch them make your pizza, put it in the oven, bring it out and it goes right out to you,” he said.

Diners get a peek behind the scenes as the team prepares food on a busy kitchen island.

“A lot of the stuff that happens in the back of the house at other restaurants, we brought into the dining room, just to create more theater, more energy inside of the dining room,” said Paslay.

“Brick and mortar will never go away,” said Manuel. “The more experiences you can create, the more you can connect with people on an emotional level.”

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