The retail industry faces a form of disruption in an average of every fifty years. While the changes themselves may initially appear daunting, it’s important to remember that change is good. The rise of urban centers led to the creation of department stores. The rise of automobiles led to the creation of suburbs and shopping malls. Discount stores soon followed and challenged that status quo. Once again, the time has come, and retail is in the process of being reinvented once again.
There have been a lot of noticeable changes in retail which made major headlines over the years. Between all the major store closings and brands going bankrupt, it became evident that trends have changed. Many mall environments started to look depressing with the eyesore of vacant anchor stores. Traditionally speaking, the three drivers of change in retail have always been convenience, spontaneity, and experience. With that idea in mind, previous changes in retail included investments in elaborate displays, playgrounds, food courts, and community events. While all that did work for several decades, the rise of digital commerce quickly complicated things for retailers and investors alike. At first, there appeared to be wars between brick and mortar versus e-commerce, but it became apparent that the new customer mindset was about far more than acquiring goods and making transactions. The missing link proved to be a mystery for several years, until the Ghermezian family cracked the code.
“It’s no secret that millennials are dominating all the markets, and there is a need to cater to their needs,“ says Yonah Ghermezian, the Owner/Partner of Triple Five Group. “Many previous generations don’t quite give millennials enough credit for where they place their priorities. Gone are the days of quick shopping experiences. The new shopping experience is expected to be far more elevated, exciting, and most important of all- immersive.”
The Triple Five Worldwide Group of companies is run by the Ghermezian family. Triple Five is a conglomerate that specializes in shopping malls, entertainment complexes, hotels, real estate and banks. They focus on creating successful mixed-use developments and activities worldwide and encompass the development, management, and ownership of world wide-scale ventures in many fields. The Ghermezian family is known for having developed, owning and managing the world’s top three largest tourism, retail and entertainment complexes of its kind:
- West Edmonton Mall in Canada
- Mall of America in the United States
- American Dream Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey (near completion.)
On the foot-traffic of these locations, Ghermezian says, “These three projects will attract over 112 million visitors annually. The annual visitors are more than the following attractions combined: Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Times Square, NY, the Las Vegas Strip, the French Quarter, NO, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Park.” The secret to this success? “It all comes down to thinking outside the retail box, and coming up with nontraditional uses of mall space.”
The three point two-million-square-foot American Dream Meadowlands is going by that example. It will consist of 55% entertainment and dining facilities, and 45% retail locations. Sections of it have opened in stages, and it is expected to be fully open for business by the end of March 2020. The entertainment offerings in American Dream Meadowlands include full-size parks in partnership with the likes of Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, and Legoland. There will also be rock climbing, an aquarium, a concert venue, an indoor ski slope, and many more attractions all in that one location. There are also ambient offerings, such as grand atriums that are flooded with natural light, (with some even housing birds and rabbits,) areas designed with social media photography in mind, and museum-scale interiors that feature the artwork of both local and international artists. There is also a 60-foot fountain, lights, and music. Collectively, it is leagues ahead of the malls we all grew up with. “My family and I had a distinct vision on the American Dream project,” says Yonah Ghermezian. “We knew we had to create an ambient and multi-sensory experience with something for everyone of all ages and interests.”
The U.S in particular has the largest number of malls per capita, with an estimated 25% of the smaller malls closing by 2025. On staying afloat, Ghermezian says, “Triple Five obviously made significant investments to make the American Dream Meadowlands the splendor that it is. It won’t be realistic to expect smaller shopping centers to make similar investments, but there is no denying that adjustments have to be made to ensure longevity. Think of ways to capitalize on experiences that digital stores simply cannot replicate. Become a lifestyle-center that happens to offer stores that supplement the lifestyle of the modern shopper.”