Retail Trends

The Modern Mall

The Modern Mall 1440 428 ASG

An Exciting New Chapter for the Modern Mall

The traditional mall, once a staple of American retail, has been undergoing a significant transformation in recent years. As consumer retail trends shift and evolve, retailers need to adapt to stay relevant in the changing landscape. While many analysts claim the mall will become a thing of the past, these retail centers can survive by embracing innovation, reinvention, and evolution.

From Shopping Centers to Experience Centers

Gone are the days when malls were simply places to buy clothing or electronics. Modern malls are becoming “experience centers” where consumers can immerse themselves in a wide array of activities beyond traditional retail. Mall operators and retailers alike are reimagining these spaces as dynamic destinations that offer a unique blend of shopping, dining, entertainment, and community experiences.

What’s driven this evolution? Well, Millennials and Gen Z report valuing experiences over possessions. Community gathering places are critical to these major demographics, who want places to connect, socialize, and make memories. As a result, modern malls are incorporating more experiential elements, such as entertainment venues, fitness centers co-working spaces, and community gathering areas, to provide a multi-dimensional experience that goes beyond shopping.

Consumers crave an interactive touch-and-feel shopping experience again. Many retailers have undergone major renovations, focusing on creating an upscale, hashtag-able, entertaining experience. While not every mall can have the full NYC Hudson Yards vibe, all retailers can create spaces for consumers to shop and play. A unique and memorable experience will drive traffic and, in turn, sales.

An Omnichannel Experience

While the pandemic had most consumers on a click-to-buy pattern, now that the world has reopened, consumers are ready to get out and shop again. But consumers are still in the buy-now mindset, expecting in-person retail to be just as quick and easy as e-commerce.

How are malls reacting to these new shopper expectations? Some malls are repurposing vacant retail spaces into fulfillment centers or last-mile delivery hubs, enabling retailers to meet the growing demand for online shopping and same-day deliveries. Other retailers are leveraging malls as showrooms or experience centers where customers can try out products before making online purchases. This allows them to showcase their brand and create an interactive shopping experience, while still capitalizing on the convenience and efficiency of online sales.

The integration of online and offline retail creates a seamless omnichannel experience for consumers, blurring the lines between physical and digital retail.

modern mall

Other Consumer Preferences Transforming Malls

Let’s take a closer look closely at some of the key consumer retail trends that are influencing the transformation of malls and explore the evolution we can expect to see.

  1. Experience-Driven Shopping: Unique and immersive experiences that go beyond traditional retail are driving younger generations to the mall. Modern malls are incorporating experiential elements, such as entertainment venues, interactive installations, and community events to create memorable and engaging experiences.
  2. Technology Integration: Consumers use tech in their everyday lives, and they expect retailers to use it to enhance their shopping experience. Expect to see more features like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences, digital signage, personalized/targeted marketing and specialized apps.
  3. Community-Centrism: Malls have an opportunity to position themselves as more than shopping destinations, but hubs for community engagement. Malls can make their mark on a community by hosting local events, supporting local businesses, and creating spaces for social gatherings, like rooftop gardens and event spaces. This trend is driven by the growing desire for authentic and localized experiences as consumers seek connections and a sense of belonging in their communities.
  4. Convenience: Consumers demand time-savings solutions and shopping experiences that cater to their busy lifestyles. And with the rise of e-commerce, they have come to expect it. Malls are adapting by incorporating services like curbside pickup, same-day delivery and streamlined returns.
  5. Sustainability: Consumers expect retailers to incorporate sustainable practices, such as recycling, green spaces and energy-efficient lighting (at the very least). This trend is driven by the growing importance of sustainability and social responsibility in consumer purchasing decisions.

A Dynamic Destination

The modern mall is undergoing a remarkable transformation to meet the changing needs and high expectations of today’s consumers. We are excited to be at the forefront, watching how retailers and mall owners embrace innovation, creativity, and technology to reinvent the mall experience. From immersive and experiential offerings to convenient and sustainable practices, the modern mall is poised to become a dynamic and engaging destination that goes beyond traditional retail.

Redefining Bucket List Travel

Redefining Bucket List Travel 1440 428 ASG

From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the serene beaches of Bali, travelers are seeking out experiences that elevate their senses and ignite their curiosity. Travel is no longer just a journey; it’s an opportunity to explore one’s inner self, connect with the world, and make unforgettable memories along the way.

As the world becomes more connected, the urge to explore and discover new horizons has become an inherent part of the human experience. Interest in seeing new places has evolved to an artful pursuit of self-discovery and inspiration. With a world of possibilities at their fingertips, travelers are increasingly seeking out authentic and unique experiences that align with their passions and help them create cherished memories that will last a lifetime. For many, it’s become less about just getting away and more about bucket list travel experiences every time they leave their city.

Our team recently conducted extensive research on the state of travel today and how we expect it to impact the retail industry. Let’s dive into some of the themes we spotted, along with some opportunities for retailers.

bucket list

Taking The Scenic Route

Opportunity for Retailers: Cater to the road trip crowd. Whether it’s road food, designer car organizers, or tech to improve the ride for drivers and passengers, opportunities to make the journey more pleasant abound.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we travel, with many people opting for road trips over air travel due to safety concerns and travel restrictions. As restrictions eased, travel came back with a vengeance in 2022, but that didn’t mean travelers solely returned to the air. In fact, a 2022 survey from The Vacationer found that nearly 80% of U.S. adults planned to take a road trip that summer. “Travel was closed due to COVID, and people don’t want to forfeit those experiences now,” said Mindi Trank, VP Strategy, Chute Gerdeman and ASG.

Even with the pandemic emergency behind us, there has been a growing number of travelers choosing to hit the road and take the scenic route, rather than flying, to their destination. Driving vacations offer a level of flexibility and freedom that air travel simply can’t match. With a car, travelers can stop whenever and wherever they want, take detours to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, and truly immerse themselves in the landscapes and cultures they are passing through. Plus, there’s something about the open road that just feels liberating and adventurous.

“Travelers are driven by the idea of controlling their time and where they are going,” Trank said. “With auto travel, travelers have control over where they are going, and the stops along the journey have become more important than ever. People are making more opportunities for something special to happen.”

From cruising along coastal highways to winding through mountain passes, the scenery and terrain of a road trip can be just as exciting and awe-inspiring as the destination itself.

With the rise of electric and hybrid vehicles, road trips are becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly than ever before. With electric car charging stations popping up along major highways and eco-friendly accommodations catering to road-trippers, driving vacations are increasingly seen as a responsible and low-impact way to explore the world.

Checking off the Bucket List, One Trip at a Time

Opportunity for Retailers: Create opportunities for “meaningful” travel experiences and target the younger generations who want to make memories.

A Stanford Medicine research project asked participants to share what is on their bucket lists, a list of experiences, accomplishments, or goals that a person wants to achieve or fulfill before they die (also referred to as “kicking the bucket”). The top response? The desire to travel, with nearly 79% of participants stating they hoped to explore new places.

At root for many of these bucket list travels the quest for meaningful experiences. A poll conducted by Bucket List Travels, a travel inspiration website, found that participants fear the greatest regret at the end of their lives will be that they didn’t explore enough of the world.

More than half of those polled said they wanted to see at least five additional countries and are currently working on checking off their travel bucket list. These numbers were particularly high among single travelers and those in younger age groups who want to make memories, according to the survey.

“People are looking at their lives and deciding how they want to focus, and then they find where that could lead them,” Trank says.

bucket list

Exploring Before Natural Wonders are Gone

Opportunity for Retailers:  The eco-tourism bus has already left the station. But if you are not yet in the business, unfortunately for the planet, new opportunities for helping consumers explore endangered natural wonders are certain to continue to arise.

As concerns about climate change and other environmental issues continue to mount, more and more people are starting to travel to see places or things that may not be there down the road.

From melting glaciers and disappearing coral reefs to endangered animal species and landscapes threatened by rising sea levels, there are a growing number of natural wonders that are at risk of being lost forever.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that some of the most iconic tourist destinations, including the Amazon rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands, are at high risk of being severely impacted by climate change in the coming decades.

This has led many travelers to prioritize destinations and experiences that may not be available when they finally get around to scheduling a trip.

“Climate tourism is starting to explode. It stems from that feeling that maybe I want to see the Great Salt Lake before it’s gone,” Trank said. “Along with travelers checking things off their bucket lists, we are getting a sense with COVID that we may not have all the time in the world. It brought to the forefront for us that every vacation has to count.”

While many travelers are seeking opportunities to explore these threatened landscapes, they are also learning about ways to help protect them.

“Even with small trips, more are carefully considering where they are going and becoming more conscious about the footprint they are leaving behind,” Trank said.

In fact, according to’s 2022 Sustainable Travel report, nearly 66% of travelers want to have experiences that reflect local culture, 59% want to leave the places they visit better than when they first arrived, and nearly 50% said climate change news is influencing them to make more sustainable travel decisions.

These decisions may include choosing to stay in eco-lodges and supporting locally-owned businesses to using public transportation and reducing plastic waste. This shift toward sustainable tourism is not only good for the environment, but it can also benefit local communities and provide travelers with a more authentic and immersive experience.

Sit Back and Relax with Hassle-Free Organized Travel

Opportunities for Retailers: Savvy retailers will partner with organized travel companies to provide products for wellness, travel or leisure.

With the rise of organized travel, planning a dream getaway has never been more convenient or stress-free. In recent years, organized travel has become increasingly popular among vacationers seeking a hassle-free and enjoyable trip–even before the travel begins.

Theme-based tours, travel companies, and other forms of organized travel have made it easier than ever to plan and book a memorable vacation by taking care of all the details–from transportation and accommodations to activities and dining.

REI is one of several companies that has jumped into the travel planning business with its co-op adventure travel program that allows outdoor enthusiasts to explore some of the world’s most stunning landscapes. As a cooperative, REI is owned by its members, who are also its customers. This unique business model allows REI to offer travel options like hiking and backpacking trips, all led by experienced and knowledgeable guides.

“This is a retailer that has really jumped in with both feet,” Trank said. “They offer trips in so many ways. For example, REI may help a single traveler plan a hiking trip by recommending the right gear and offering a Saturday hiking training class to get in shape for the trip. On the trip, she can carry her daypack and REI sets up the rest. There are also other classes where people can plan them with their spouses or friends.”

Another popular immersion travel trip that is planned for the traveler and goes beyond traditional sightseeing is culinary tourism. One person’s trip may include sampling local foods, learning about traditional cooking techniques and taking pre-arranged cooking classes. Other types of trips where every detail is well thought-out before departure are wildlife safaris and wellness get-aways.

Bucket List Travel

Going Back in Time with Heritage Travel

Opportunities for Retailers: By catering to this very personal niche, retailers can earn brand loyalty. Products that help document the journey, both physically and emotionally, will see demand. Personalized services in this area will continue to expand.

In recent years, there has been a significant resurgence of interest in heritage and culture among travelers. With the rise of DNA websites like 23andMe, more and more people are gaining insights into their ancestry and feeling a deeper connection to their roots. As a result, many travelers are now seeking out destinations that have personal significance to them and exploring their heritage in a more meaningful way.

A Global Wellness Institute study found that by this past year, heritage travel, which includes cultural and ancestral tourism, was expected to grow to $919 billion.

One way that travelers are engaging with their heritage is by visiting the places where their ancestors are from. Whether it’s tracing their family tree in Europe, exploring the villages of their forebears in Africa, or connecting with their Native American heritage in the Americas, travelers are seeking out experiences that help them better understand their cultural and historical roots.

By learning more about their heritage and culture, travelers are able to gain a deeper appreciation for their own identity and a greater understanding of the world around them.

Armchair Travel: Seeing the World without Leaving Your Home

Opportunities for Retailers: Not everyone is able to travel to the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China. Find ways to bring the travel experience to consumers at home or closer to home.

While group tours are still popular among the aging population, the business model has changed to include what’s known as “armchair travel,” a term used to describe the experience of exploring the world without ever leaving the comfort of your home.

Armchair travel can take many forms, from reading travel books and watching travel documentaries to playing virtual reality games or taking virtual tours of famous landmarks and attractions.

“Older adults are staying closer to home, taking online classes and learning about new places,” Trank said. “Travel companies have shifted their models, making it easier to pay $300 for an online class that gives you the sense of going everywhere.”

This is one of the biggest advantages of armchair travel; it allows you to explore places that may be difficult or even impossible to visit in person. For example, you can visit the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal in India without ever leaving your living room. You can also explore the remote wilderness of Antarctica, the depths of the Amazon rainforest, or the vast expanses of the Sahara Desert without having to worry about safety or logistical challenges.

The State of Travel

Travel has had a major moment since COVID restrictions have lifted and people are ready to mingle and see the world. Having lived through a global pandemic, many Americans have a renewed desire to understand and explore new places and cultures. While our attitudes and priorities when it comes to travel has shifted, retailers have a massive opportunity to reach new audiences by finding where they could add value to travelers’ experiences.

The Pet Retail Economy

The Pet Retail Economy 1440 428 ASG

Were you one of the many people who made a lifestyle change during the pandemic? Maybe you started a new hobby or workout regimen, or maybe you were one of the 23 million Americans who adopted a new pet. One in five Americans nationwide took in a new pet, according to The Washington Post. Do you fall into this category? If so, you helped change the way pet retail looks and will look for the foreseeable future. And if you are a retailer in the pet space—the outlook is good.

According to ZIPPA, the pet industry is booming. The U.S. pet industry expenditure has more than doubled in the last 10 years and is projected to continue that growth. Here are some staggering stats:

  • 70% of U.S. households own at least one pet, 32% of them being Millennials, followed by Baby Boomers (27%).
  • During the pandemic, the global pet industry saw spending growth of about 28%.
  • Owners are spending an average of $1,332 a year, which adds up to $13,000 over the average lifespan of a dog or cat.
  • The pet industry is worth $76.8 billion and is projected to reach $325.74 billion by 2028.

Shifting From Children to Pets

With pet ownership at record levels, owners are increasingly treating their pets more like a part of the family—and they want to be the best pet parents they can be. In an article from The New York Times, Andrea Laurent-Simpson a sociology research assistant professor at Southern Methodist University and author of the book Just Like Family: How Companion Animals Joined the Household, states that Baby Boomers have evolved into thinking of their pets as family members, especially as the cohort has become empty nesters. Many in the younger generations are fully leaning into the idea of dogs as children, with more Millennials postponing pregnancy and Gen Zers passing on having kids altogether. In fact, in a 2022 Consumer Affairs survey of 1,000 pet owners, “58% of Millennials said they’d prefer to have pets over human children.”

The consumer mind shift from pet owners to pet parents has brought many new opportunities to the pet retail market. With pet parents willing to spend big on a nice life for their pup, the pet housing market is hot.

Pimp My Pet’s Crib

As consumers spend more time at home, the aesthetics of pet gear can no longer be an afterthought. Owners are making sure their pets live just as high quality (and stylish) life as they do. From custom playhouses, dog showers, built-in litter boxes, and crates, to personal watering stations, there are endless designs pet owners are incorporating into their homes. One pet owner building a new home in Tulsa, Okla. requested a dog kennel-like structure off the main bedroom. “The kennel has a dog door that opens from the outside and leads directly to the dog shower, as well as built-in crates and their own refrigerator and dedicated freezer drawers for their raw food.”

With a lot of pet owners still working remotely, brands like PetFitness are seeing success. In January 2022 they released a dog-focused exercise plan. The online library of 50+ workout videos (created with consultation from vets and dog trainers) is designed to build strength, endurance, flexibility and balance.

Another company, Get Joy, announced in 2022 the establishment of the first-ever dog park in the virtual world of Decentraland. “Get Joy aims to increase dog joy through three things: nutrition, the cornerstone of what we do; educating pet parents on how to be the best dog parents they can be; and now, expanding our commitment to establish and improve the places dogs can go,” said Get Joy Founder and CEO, Tom Arrix. “We are turning to the metaverse to dramatize the fact that in most real-life communities, there is an imbalance between the size of the dog community and the available recreational space for those animals.”

Back To Work

For Americans on the go or returning to the office, some of those household amenities might not seem appealing. But services like “doggie daycare,” pet healthcare insurance, and even pet-friendly restaurants and workplaces take priority for those pet parents. Many pets and their people have had to adjust to returning to the workplace, and it’s not easy for either party. Over half (57%) of American pet owners said they would be happiest returning to their workplace if they could bring their pets with them according to a recent Stylus report.

Many owners say they are concerned about the separation anxiety their furry friends may experience as they leave them for more extended periods of time. Doggie daycare may be reasonable for some pet owners with costs averaging round $30-$35 per day, while others want the flexibility to work part-time or bring their pets to work with them. A study by LiveCareer found :

  • 52% of respondents said that pet-friendly benefits and policies are important when considering an employer.
  • 49% said that a pet-friendly work environment could convince them to take a job offer.
  • 52% felt more supportive of pets in the workplace due to the pandemic.

Although bringing pets into the office has some negative sides such as allergies, accidents, and distractions, there are some studies that show pets help reduce stress, enhance physical health, and enhance one’s ability to think, plan and concentrate. Some large companies welcome dogs to the office, including  Amazon, Google, Petco, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Procore Technologies, Cliff Bar & Company, Airbnb, and Kurgo.

From Pet Owner to Pet Parent

As people continue to adopt pets, they will continue to spend plenty of money on them. From cuddles to playtime, pets can contribute to your quality of life— so it only makes sense that pet owners choose to contribute to theirs in return. Not every pet owner will be purchasing items like designer dog clothes, human-grade dog food, or vegan luxury dog beds. But the shift in mindset from pet owner to pet parent means today’s pets have it good—and the brands creating the plethora of products for them have it even better.

The Art of Sensory Experiences in Retail + Restaurant

The Art of Sensory Experiences in Retail + Restaurant 1440 428 ASG

We’ve all experienced it – that moment when a single whiff of a scent of cinnamon takes us back to grandma’s kitchen during the holidays. The smell of buttered popcorn and we are taken back to the movie theater in our minds. A song whose first few notes make us remember a special moment with a significant other. It’s no wonder that restaurants and retailers are trying to find ways to capture the art of sensory experiences so that they linger on in our minds a little longer.

Incorporating the senses into shopping and dining experiences does more than just create a unique experience for the customer. By ensuring that all the senses are engaged, restaurants and retailers have an opportunity to make an indelible impression on customers and connect their brand positively to everyone.

Creating a sensory-driven experience in retail is a thoughtful, deliberate process that must incorporate brand story, the location, and the clientele. Lily Pulitzer’s Palm Beach store was designed with the senses in mind, with luxurious textures and colors, indoor and outdoor areas where customers can feel a breeze and smell the ocean air, and even an orange juice bar to energize the taste buds.

“Sensory marketing can turn a one-time customer into a loyal repeat brand advocate. By appealing to all five senses, retailers can solidify their store as a must-visit place for shoppers by creating an unforgettable experience that just can’t be replicated online. If you want to give your brick-and-mortar store an edge over e-commerce competitors, follow these tips for incorporating sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound into your retail experience.” – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

How to Incorporate the Senses

While not every interaction with a customer can deliver a sensory experience that includes all five senses, it’s important to consider all five and determine which senses can best help enhance your brand story.

The visual experience is, in most cases, the first sensory experience a customer will have with a brand, and it can start well before they ever visit a store. The logo, website, social media, online menus (food photography, clear descriptions of menu items), and color schemes all play into the visual experience. Once they step inside a store or restaurant, the visual experience continues. Lighting, menu boards, digital signs, and displays all play a part, but so does simple order and cleanliness. Neil Saunders pokes fun regularly at Macy’s for their inability to deliver a visual experience that delights customers, which is contrary to their knowledge that the visual experience is the first one with the brand they’ll have.

The music played in a restaurant or store sets the mood, so the music must match the brand and the intended experience. It’s more than just the style of music and volume, though. Especially in restaurants, the sounds from the kitchen –clanging pots and pans, the voices of employees, even the sizzling sound of fajitas being delivered to a nearby table – can all enhance or detract from the experience.

Smell as a sensory experience needs little explanation for a restaurant setting, but how does smell play into other retail settings? Can a brand have a signature smell? While it’s necessary to find a balance between overwhelming the senses and creating a subtle sensory experience, smell may be the most powerful sense when it comes to sensory marketing.

“[The] brain regions that juggle smells, memories and emotions are very much intertwined. In fact, the way that your sense of smell is wired to your brain is unique among your senses.” – Live Science

Touch is an underrated sense, in both retail and restaurant. But everything about touch contributes to the customer’s sensory experience. From having the opportunity to feel the fabric of an item of clothing before making a purchase to the weight of the silverware used in a restaurant can impact the overall experience.

Fast Casual points out that not all touch is physical and that personal space is a part of the overall sensory experience of touch. “A person’s figurative sense of touch may also be impacted by their perception of personal space. For example, if you’re sitting alone at a small table near a wall, you would probably feel cozy and secure. However, if that same table were positioned in the middle of the room surrounded by the hustle of others, they would now likely feel exposed and possibly invaded.”

While taste is a logical piece of the sensory experience in a restaurant, as with the orange juice bar at Lilly Pulitzer, retailers can also benefit from signature tastes. From offering coffee and tea to shoppers to having a signature cinnamon bun that has become a celebratory event, retailers can use the power of taste to connect with customers more effectively. Because taste and smell are intricately linked, associating the two can be even more powerful.

“Modern chefs are recognising that flavour is more potent than taste as it engages all the senses and can evoke nostalgia, reminiscence, and emotion. Using audio and other sensory influences enables them to enhance the flavours of their dishes and make them more memorable. Curious, up-for-anything diners are just as hungry for enhanced dining experiences that play on all their senses. What’s more, they are willing to pay a pretty penny for them.” – CordonBleu

Grocery Stores Embrace Sensory Marketing

Grocery stores are highly competitive. According to Vericast, the average grocery shopper visits four different retailers for groceries. So how can a grocer keep shoppers coming back through multisensory experiences?

Albertsons is going straight for smell and will begin piping in the smell of cheesecake at Philadelphia cream cheese displays in certain stores. But Vericast points to visual marketing in the form of the printed circular as the most essential sensory marketing for grocers. The circular is to grocers what the toy catalog is to retailers during the holidays– something that defies the odds of the digital world we live in and allows people to see and touch something physical as they plan their shopping.

C-Stores Deliver Multisensory Experiences

While not every c-store can be an Omega Mart, convenience stores are upleveling by delivering a better, more personalized experience to customers. A great example is Mapco, who have transformed the idea of a convenience store from being an in-and-out stop to a place where customers can linger.

Multisensory Experiences Are the Future

Engaging the senses creates an enhanced experience, but it also increases sales. Consider these statistics from Mood Media:

  • 75% of shoppers say they are more likely to stay longer in a place of business if they’re enjoying the music, visuals, and scent.
  • 90% of shoppers say they’re more likely to revisit a brick & mortar business if the music, visuals, and scent create an enjoyable atmosphere.
  • 43% of consumers around the globe have been inspired to make a purchase based on digital signage content they viewed while in-store.

Engaging in more than one sense amplifies each of the senses involved. So a visual experience in a retail location that is accompanied by both sound (music) and a tactile experience, or a restaurant experience in which smell, taste, and sound are combined to create powerful and memorable moment can be much more powerful than focusing on an individual sense.

Consumers are looking for ways to make the time and money they spend more meaningful and memorable. Engaging all their senses from the moment they begin engaging with a brand can lock in loyalty and increasing revenues.

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