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The future of mall retail: Is there a place for RMUs?

September 13, 2016

Mall commercialisation offers retailers the opportunity to operate in the visibility of the open mall, and to take advantage of passing footfall, rather than relying on customers crossing the threshold of a shop.  A mall operator is therefore able to engage with passers-by in a way that isn’t always possible within a store, and offer a more hands on approach to customer interaction.  This isn’t only advantageous to the retailer, especially new start-ups looking to gain exposure to the market, but also to the shopper who is able to have a more immersive and accessible experience.  Disabled shoppers or parents with pushchairs may find it easier to access products from a mid-mall position rather than negotiate display cases and shelves within stores.

 

There is no doubt that the nature of mall commercialisation is ever evolving, with today’s kiosks and RMUs a far cry from the old fashioned hand carts and barrows that used to be common place.  New centres have the luxury of starting from scratch by creating areas on the mall specifically designed to accommodate different forms of mall commercialisation.  It is in these larger destination shopping centres where we expect to see glossy kiosks from both big brands and independent operators.

 

 

 

What about smaller value-led shopping centres?  Whilst a specially designed kiosk is expected of national retailers such as electronic cigarettes and mobile phone accessories, in the smaller centres, small businesses generally express concern about the unknown return on investment when spending a large sum on a bespoke kiosk in order to meet the increasingly demanding expectations of Landlords and commercialisation agents. 

 

It is true that bespoke kiosks add vibrancy to malls and offer inspiration to other retailers but they aren’t the only option, or necessarily the best fit for every retailer or shopping centre.  RMUs offer centre management the opportunity to trial a specific product on the mall to ensure that it is the right ‘fit’ for their centre and to avoid issues that could arise with tenant conflict before committing to a longer term licence or lease.  While a retailer may also want to use an RMU to trial the market before making a longer term commitment they are also an attractive prospect for companies who only require mall trade for a set amount of time such as those with a specific seasonal offer or that want to offload excess stock.

 

It is true the kiosks are the natural evolution of the RMU offering a more attractive bespoke display option which is suited to each operator’s retail needs but RMUs still play an important role in supporting small start-up businesses in the transition from retail idea to business reality.