Skyline University College,UAE
Technology is the moving force, and it's impacting every dimension of human life. New technological developments create new opportunities for various businesses, and at the same time make many others obsolete. The latter half of twentieth century changed the way world shops, distantly located small independent stores gave way to shopping malls and hypermarkets. Shopping malls became the indispensable part of modern lifestyle. Modern consumers got inspiration for emerging fashion in shopping malls and they spent hours every week in these malls to shop, to see and to make new friends. Malls had a lot to offer for evenings and weekends from fashion to food courts, from child entertainment to mega theaters. Malls became the major factor for an area to develop, for flats in an apartment to get sold at the right prices. New residents based their house selection decisions not only on the availability of schools and hospitals but also on the malls in nearby areas.
Shopping malls grew so fast in the last few decades that retailers operating at independent locations began moving to these malls for survival and growth. The number and types of shopping malls often decided how modern a city was. City with sprawling malls became shopping destinations and added to the tourism and overall economic growth of the cities. Different malls were known for different types of retail stores, different types of merchandise they offered, different type of customers they attracted. No wonder, governments and decision makers awarded high priority to malls' development in urban planning.
But, there are strong signals of changing wind. Probably, malls are entering the proverbial maturity phase of product lifecycle. The convenience of online shopping and the poverty of time are propelling shoppers away from the malls and towards the screen. The rapidly developing technologies are making the screen smaller, smarter and faster. The trend has become global, the death of High Street in UK and that of downtown in USA is not confined to America and Europe. Even in Asian countries, malls are vacant: some malls have no shoppers, and others do not have even occupants (retail stores).While Flipkart and snapdeal have made Indian malls empty, Alibaba in China has made hundreds of international brands shutting down their stores in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. Korea has the same story. In UAE, world famous malls of Dubai are facing the intense heat of competition and owners of physical stores have a lot of apprehensions about the future.
What are the prominent reasons of this shift? And how will it unfold further in future?
A lot of studies have been done and many others are in the progress to understand the dynamics and to infer the future trends.
A few of the major reasons identified are as following:-
Shopping by smartphones and apps have provide far more wider choices than shopping in physical stores
Comparisons of products, features and prices are so instant and professional, which can never be matched by physical stores
Changing lifestyle factors like both partners working and poverty of time make online shopping Hobson's choice for millions
Disintermediation (absence of marketing middlemen like retailers & distributors) bring down the prices substantially,
Privacy in shopping, avoidance of crowd etc. are other factors which motivate many to shop online.
The future seems to be in favor of online shopping and it may bring more bad news to physical stores and malls. There are obvious reasons for this conjecture. First of all, the emergence of better technologies like augmented reality will make online shopping far more better and convenient than today. Secondly, the smarter logistics will reduce the time for delivery in any part of the world. Thirdly, expansion and betterment of online payments will help online shopping to grow further .Last but not the least, newer generations will not have any psychological barrier to shop online, no old habits need to be broken, and they will be much more comfortable in using IT apps than older ones present today.
Hence, writing on the wall for retailers and mall owners is act before it's too late, explore the new ways for businesses, new ways to reaching the changing customers.