Urban retail strip malls are history—they highlight shifting retail patterns.
Starting with the abandonment of subsistence economies and a move toward capitalist society, consumption rates soared. Manufacturers were forced to meet this surplus of demand by operating at near-perfect efficiency levels (e.g. Fordism, Six Sigma). The retail economy expanded from department stores to urban shopping malls. The retail strip occupied just one segment of this market.
Strips come in a variety of different sizes, shapes and forms; they also serve distinct functions. Toronto’s Chinatown (Spadina/Dundas), for example, started as a single hand-laundry business in 1878 and now occupies eight blocks within Toronto’s central business district catering to the likes of East Asian immigrants.
Differences aside, most retail shopping experiences share common elements such as:
- Engagement: shoppers wish to be catered to and have an associate who can effectively problem solve but also who can respect the consumer’s personal space.
- Spatial Location: distance decay models assert that as the distance increases between consumer and retailer the interaction between them decreases.
- No Hassles: selection, stock and return policies are pivotal here.
In order for a retail strip to be successful, the demands of the market must be met. The above elements serve only as a starting point for retailers to begin to assess their standing—numerous other important factors such as competition and market saturation also must be seriously considered.
Consumer trends may come and go but the retail strip will always stake out a part of its share of the retail market by forever (21) offering a hands-on experience—something that is uniquely human.