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Retail-tainment puts inspiration into shopping

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‘Golden age of consumer’ sees shopping centres try new methods to attract and retain customers

Retail-tainment is a recently coined marketing phrase which describes the growing world-wide trend of combining retail and entertainment options, and is a movement which has found its way into South African shopping malls.

Online shopping growth, changing consumer habits, and technological disruptions have been major catalyst for retail shake-ups both here and around the world as bricks-and-mortar shopping centres face increasing pressure to adapt.

Emphasising that the next decade is expected to be the “golden age of the consumer”, the World Economic Forum’s 2017 insight report titled Shaping the Future of Retail, states that shoppers will have more choices and control than ever before when they go to malls as they will be presented with a growing array of products and services, often personalised to their specific needs and wants.

“Consumers will continue to demand price and quality transparency along with a wide range of convenient fulfilment options.

Overall, the retail experience is poised to become more inspirational, exciting, simple and convenient, depending on the consumer’s needs.”

And retail-tainment – which according to Randy White, CEO of White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group in the US, is a trend which accelerated during the economic downturn as retailers, shopping centres, and malls desperately looked for new ways to attract the “new consumer” – is just one way these changing needs will be met.

“Things are not looking good for many shopping centres and retailers…That’s why adding entertainment and experiences to the retail mix is becoming one way for retailers and shopping centres to drive traffic from consumers less enamoured about buying discretionary goods.”

Most of South Africa’s major shopping malls already offer numerous entertainment products such as bowling, movie theatres, and entertainment districts, but White says others being seen in the US include:

Themed brand stores – stores based on well-known brands such as the American Girl Place where girls and their mothers can dine with their dolls, take them to the doll hair salon, pose for a picture with them in the photo studio, and of course, shop.

Entertainment in retail stores – such as the 4100m2 Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store in Altoona, Iowa which includes a nautically-themed bowling area.

Build-a-Bear Workshop, seen in many South African malls, is another example of successful retailers that have turned their stores into experiential entertainment destinations, and even hold birthday parties, White says.

The Mall of Africa, one of Africa’s largest malls, is at the forefront of staying relevant, driving growth and boosting efficiency by reinventing itself as a key entertainment centre – offering add-on activities and putting on special events to attract shoppers, says its events manager Nicola van Kan.

Set on becoming the heart and soul of Johannesburg, and attracting visitors and shoppers from far and wide, Van Kan says the Mall of Africa is no longer primarily about shopping but has become an important venue for hosting leading events. In the past few months these have included:

The National Antiques and Decorative Arts Faire.

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.

A live music performance by the Gauteng Philharmonic Orchestra playing music inspired by

A definitive Art Collective display of South African artworks and sculptures.

Van Kan says the Mall of Africa is leading the way in the international trend of retail-tainment by adding entertainment and event experiences to the general retail mix.

“The three events held so far were unprecedented successes attracting thousands of visitors who were happy to meet, shop and be entertained in a safe, multi-functional complex that delivered the wow factor.”

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