“Shopping centers are, yes, a place to shop, but they’re a place to dine, to be entertained, to live, work and work out,” Rand said. “We’re trying to provide more leisure and entertainment and food offerings for our customers.”
That’s partly because younger customers today care more about experiences and creating memories than having a tangible object, he said. Macerich’s malls are allocating more space for pop-up, limited events and stores.
“They usually create nice buzz online, get a big following and create some excitement you’d otherwise wouldn’t have if you didn’t have the temporary flex space for them,” he said.
Among the panelists at the event was Paul Daniels, owner and operator of the Chick-Fil-A restaurant at Queens Center Mall. He spoke about some of the challenges he faces and strategies he employs to take on the retail landscape.
Daniels’ first move was hiring all local employees so he could learn more about the neighborhoods they’re from and the community they’re serving.
“My main focus is really understanding those who come in and around the mall,” he said.
Chick-Fil-A also has an app that serves as a “connection point” to the customers, Daniels said. He encouraged every business to invest in new technology like apps.
“If you don’t have your own customized app for your business, then you’re way behind,” he said.
But there are still many challenges his restaurant has to overcome, particular the high cost of doing business. Daniels cited complex labor laws, utilities and other factors that contribute to a tough business climate.
“Right now, businesses are definitely struggling because it’s not one thing,” he said “It’s so many of other things that are adding those pressures.”
The retail experts urged those in attendance to embrace the technological changes, or risk falling behind.
“Technology really holds the feet to the fire,” Krivine said. “It’s a force of discipline.
“It allows people to look into the future and plan for growth,” he added. “They can embed that information to make themselves smarter in the future.”