Kannika Mall

NW in 2018 | Getting our teeth into tech

Until relatively recently, many shopping centres were strangers to good food and drink, writes Kannika Mall of M&G Real Estate. But now it’s not good enough just to attract big brand names: food and drink should be a jewel in a shopping centre’s crown, and tech can play a role in making that happen.

Do you remember going to a shopping centre when you were little? Of course you do: traipsing after mum and dad round endless shops that all looked at the same, in search of your school uniform or a new pencil case. Still, at least there was the treat of somewhere nice to eat at the end of it, right?

Of course not.  The odd elegant bistro at the big department stores, like Lewis’s or Kendals, but little else to write home about. You know what happened next: the food court revolution, as we realised that shoppers wouldn’t mind a sit down and a bite to eat before the bus home; hot on their heels, the coffee shop and family restaurant. Something for everyone, from Kentucky to the Far East and beyond.

Times they are a-changing. It’s not good enough just to attract big names: the best centres mix leading retail, innovative experiences, and that all-important food & beverage proposition. Today, food and drink isn’t a way to keep shoppers shopping: we see it as one of the jewels in our crown.

A decent place to eat or have a drink with my friends matters to me. In that respect, I’m like countless others: I’m not choosing where to shop, I’m choosing where to go. That’s true all over the North West, especially as improvements to transport mean we’re competing in a truly regional market. Similarly, more urban living means we have to fight harder to stand out in a busy, vibrant city. At Manchester Arndale, we combine our own experiences, our asset-management nous, and extensive research to create the kind of destination people want.

Alongside our partner Intu, in Halle Place we are currently developing a modern casual-dining destination due to open in 2018. Halle Place will bring exciting new restaurants and bars to complement our current great line-up and in the true Mancunian spirit, we’re not afraid to shout about it. We work closely with our occupiers on creative new ways to attract customers, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled. That means using social media, events and technology, but also a little imagination, to make sure people come along, and keep coming back for more.

This takes me to the bigger question. At Manchester Arndale, we’re not just custodians of the past and curators of the city’s present: it’s our job to imagine the future, and create what people will want in the years to come.

Manchester’s a leading tech and creative hub, and we want to work with talent across the city as we shape the next decade. Think of the power of the technology in your pocket: it’s so easy to imagine walking into a ‘smart store’ that would direct you to jeans and shoes that are to your taste, where drones can take your shopping to your car; or a restaurant where your favourite wine’s uncorked as you sit down, and the e-ink menu in your hands already knows what you like. None of this will be tomorrow, but when it, or similar technological advances create such opportunities do appear, why shouldn’t it be at Manchester Arndale first?

As an industry, we’re at a tipping point where our customers rightly demand more than just shops. It takes retail savvy and something different to stay one step ahead, as well as a commitment to constant improvements. ‘Experience’ is the operative word.

  • Kannika Mall is an asset manager at M&G Real Estate

The North West in 2018 series features guest contributors looking ahead to next year and is published throughout December.

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