Creating engaging ‘third places’ for visitors

Rupkatha Bhowmick

Saudi Arabia-based Alandalus Property CEO, Hathal Saad Alutaibi believes the correct usage is ‘destinations’ as opposed to retail real estate. Retail spaces are curated for individuals to fulfil their needs and spend a good time. It’s quite different from renting an office space. It must be a destination of choice, acting as the individual’s ‘third place’, after home and work place. That is the kind of aspirational retail spaces that Alandalus Property are striving to build and rejuvenate.

RetailME spoke to Alutaibi about the state and evolving nature of retail spaces in the Kingdom and what the ‘mall of tomorrow’ will look like

Shopping malls and retail spaces used to be driven by architectural design and the tenancy mix – an activity undertaken by the leasing team – without much focus on the real needs of the end users – shoppers. The fallout of such a model is the rise of e-commerce that started offering customers more choice and convenience.

“Think about it. Today online and offline are not competitive anymore. Digital is a great platform to engage. Online-only retailers are also creating experience centres when they have the required financial strength. If the right engagement strategy is in place, it is possible to bring shoppers from online to offline. They will browse online but buy in stores. They will spread the word on social media. It’s all about engaging and differentiating,” Alutaibi emphasised.

“The fundamentals of the industry are now changing,” he added. “There is a clear shift towards food and entertainment, while leasing, to create a higher level of engagement with visitors and shoppers. We have consciously changed our outlook towards retail real estate and shopping malls, which are no longer transaction-only locations. Now we work towards creating destinations of choice that not only draw but retain visitors for longer and bring them back more often. What we sell is no longer a square metre of retail space, we are now in the business of selling experiences.”

Read the full article in the November edition of RetailME