Friday, May 3, 2013

How to design a shopping mall? Here is a simple and stupid way to get it right!

How to design a shopping mall for dummies
A good design is important for easy leasing.
This is a forced post. Hundreds of shopping mall designs out there, crying for the retailers' and shoppers' attention have forced us to write this article. So, we will get to the crux of the situation right away.

Be intuitive. Yeah. That is the key!

The human mind has amazing capabilities of visualizing a virtual situation. When you are planning a new shopping mall on paper, please use this human power you are gifted with. It would make things very simple and easy.

Ask your architect to give you a site plan, the building outline and the circulation areas outside the building only. Let that plan resemble a 'join the dots' puzzle that your little girl was playing with last weekend. Now, run the darn drawing in your head as if you were walking through the shopping mall for real. Yeah, the same way you always mentally pictured the mushy situations between you and your college crush.

Driving in: Drive in to your virtual mall. Take a look around at the entry point, the elevation of the building and the car entry point. How do you want it? Reference it with some of the best malls you have seen in reality. Add those bits in and you will start to get a picture. Where are you getting off the car? Is it comfortable? What makes the virtual reality in your head look so promising? Make mental notes. Run it over and over and the details will emerge in details. Make notes, sketches or just scribble what you feel on the drawing in front of you. Call it the #drive in. Follow this method for all the points that follow.

Parking: If you were driving in yourself, where would you drop off your folks or your friend? Or would you drive down to the parking straight away and walk into the retail area of the mall? In the 40 degree centigrade Indian summer, how much would you have to walk to get into the air conditioned areas? Does your parking area look cheerful? Is it built easy enough to enable a new driver to enter, exit and park effortlessly? Does your parking area have some cool car related services? Does it make the car owner feel safe about his or her car? Run the virtual map again and again till all your questions are clear. Jot them down.

Entry lobby: What do you see as you enter the shopping mall? Is it the signage of a retailer who is your anchor? Would you like your shoppers to see as many retail brands as possible from the lobby? That would get you higher average rentals for sure. Is the air conditioning comfortable? Does the place feel grand? Does it look inviting? Are the flooring and wall finishes durable? Will they age fast and make your property look old and beat? All those feelings you get during your virtual tour should be scribbled down neatly. :)

Retail Brands: Understand where your shopping mall is located. This is not the vision you have for the place. A shopping mall is not a Mecca or a Vaishno Devi Mandir. It will not attract people from all over your city. If you are located in an upmarket area, think of upmarket luxury brands, finishes and higher rentals because of the higher cost. If you are in a middle income area, focus on the experience and not high end finishes. Keep your costs low. That will also enable you to pass on the benefit of lower rents to retailers. At the end of the day, with retailers shifting investments to the internet, getting them into your shopping mall at low rentals is the sole key to the long term survival of your shopping mall. You need to write your thoughts down again. The show is there!

Multiplex and Food court: There are various arguments that analyse the positive and negative effects of having a multiplex in your shopping mall. However, we can tell you that having a multiplex in your shopping mall is critical to its life and health. So focus on this area. And focus hard. Design ample lifts and escalators to handle peak show time footfalls. Design a just right sized lobby and 'popcorn n coke' selling area. Remember, a large lobby is just dead space for the multiplex operator! And most multiplex operators would not be very happy paying rentals for that space. They would want more seats or services instead.
Understand that your multiplex and food court would remain functional long after the shopping hours so plan the exit and entry of folks well. Also, think energy and manpower conservation. Lower costs will win the race for you in the long run. Nothing else. For the food court, keep spaces for services, garbage, mobilization of raw materials and washing areas. Provision for a gas bank and a service lift. These are critical points.

Once you have the seen the entire show a couple of times in your head and have a lot of notes in your hand, set up that meeting with your architect and tell her/ him what you want. You will save time, money and a lot of heartache during leasing. Focus on being ahead of your times. Focus on building better than what you have seen. Because, your competition is doing exactly that.

Designing your shopping mall correctly is the key to it's success. There are no two ways about that. If you need help in getting your architect's brief correct, write to Rahul Mishra at Pillars and get yourself some easy, cost effective and involving shopping mall design solutions.


About the author
Rahul Mishra is a real estate professional who started his life as a salesman in the year 2001, selling homes in the city of Kolkata. He worked pan India in real estate organisations like MMG Realty, Bengal Shrachi, The Phoenix Mills and The Space Group before helping co found Pillars with a single objective - To make real estate easy!

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