Ready-to-Wear, Restaurants Recast Lifestyle Centers

Discussion
Jun 02, 2008

By Tom Ryan

Lifestyle centers are increasingly distinguishing themselves from traditional malls by putting more emphasis on women’s apparel stores and restaurants, according to an ICSC study of nearly 80 U.S. lifestyle centers.

The report, The Remaking of Lifestyle Centers: The Ascendancy of Women’s Apparel and Restaurants, shows that between 2004 and 2007, the number of women’s ready-to-wear stores (e.g., Ann Taylor, Chicos, J. Jill) increased 1.63 percent to 585 from 487. Women’s wear accounted for 14.6 percent of lifestyle center tenant mix in 2007, up from 12.5 percent in 2004.

Restaurants grew 0.92 percent to 533 from 466 inside lifestyle centers. In terms of proportion of total tenants, this was 12.9 percent in 2007, versus 12 percent in 2004.

Kelly Tackett, a senior consultant at TNS Retail Forward, the retail consultant firm, said that because of their easy parking, lifestyle centers offer more convenience than malls and are consequently a good fit for women’s ready-to-wear stores. “Convenience has always been one of the main attractions of the lifestyle concept,” Ms. Tacket told Shopping Centers Today.

Joshua Poag, CFO of Memphis, Tenn.-based Poag & McEwen, an early developer of the lifestyle center concept, also noted that lifestyle centers are generally positioned to respond faster than larger malls to shifts in consumer preference, such as an increased demand for women’s ready-to-wear.

“Lifestyle centers are more in tune with what’s going on in consumer preferences, partly because they can be,” Mr. Poag told Shopping Centers Today. “Older and larger malls tend to have tenants with 10- or 15-year leases, longer on average than the tenant base of a lifestyle center, so there’s more flexibility in the lifestyle center model in remaking a tenant mix.”

The increasing popularity of restaurants at lifestyle centers is largely a function of convenience as well.

“Restaurants depend on one of the fundamental characteristics of the lifestyle center: close parking,” said Mr. Poag. “Parking is the key to the lifestyle center concept. The consumer has to be able to walk right into the store, and when you think about restaurants, parking is crucial in exactly the same way.”

At the same time, malls saw the largest hike in family apparel stores and a decline in women’s ready-to-wear stores. Overall, malls still feature much more apparel and accessory stores than lifestyle centers (53.1 percent of leasable space to 29.3 percent, respectively). Lifestyle centers contain more home furniture and furnishings stores (14.4 percent to 3.7 percent); restaurants (11.8 percent to 5.8 percent); supermarkets (4.2 percent to zero) and movie theaters (7.8 percent to 4.7 percent).

Discussion Question: Why do you think women’s ready-to-wear stores appear to be a natural fit for lifestyle centers? What other types of retailers do you see as ideal for lifestyle centers?

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13 Comments on "Ready-to-Wear, Restaurants Recast Lifestyle Centers"


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Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

I know the discussion was about lifestyle centers attracting women’s fashion stores, but is it possible that we see so many women’s stores and restaurants in these centers because those are the growth stores? I go into countless malls and lifestyle centers and see only a handful of men’s stores. The teen and pre-teen stores, a real expanding category a few years ago, also seem to be getting fewer.

Are we all looking at it backwards; are lifestyle centers actually only drawing from the most active retail concepts which happen to be women’s stores and restaurants?

Bernice Hurst
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

As usual, the whole life vs. lifestyle thing seems to be different on either side of that big old ocean that separates us. I read this today all about a load of massive malls with 1.25m sq m of space due to open across the UK within the next 18 months. Apparently because they are juggernauts that have been set rolling and cannot be stopped in the face of that nasty old credit crunch and the fact that more people are spending less. It sorta kinda seems to me that lifestyles are a changin’ again and whether we have malls or lifestyle centers is almost irrelevant. Anyway – how are they being heated?

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
13 years 11 months ago

The next step in the unification of female lifestyle centers is the inclusion of “esthetics” services. Botox, spray tans, etc. It’s already happening here in NorCal (where else?). The next step in the unification of male lifestyle centers is catheterized barstools.

Let’s get semi-serious. Those familiar with the Broadway musical, “Company,” will remember lyrics to the song, “Ladies Who Lunch:”

Here’s to the ladies who lunch–
Everybody laugh.
Lounging in their caftans
And planning a brunch
On their own behalf.
Off to the gym,
Then to a fitting,
Claiming they’re fat.
And looking grim,
‘Cause they’ve been sitting
Choosing a hat.
Does anyone still wear a hat?
I’ll drink to that.

Lifestyle centers appeal to the Ladies Who Lunch. For the rest, it seems pretty anti-feminist to me.

Janis Cram
Guest
Janis Cram
13 years 11 months ago

Marc, I don’t know if your last comment was serious or not but you really hit the nail on the head. As a working mother, I often have to choose between shopping where I want to shop vs. shopping where it’s more convenient. There is one lifestyle center near my house but it’s too inconvenient for me to shop there because it doesn’t have all of the stores I typically need when running errands. If I could drop my kids off somewhere for an hour or two…it would be no choice.

Lee Peterson
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

Lifestyle centers are here to stay, and the same will be true for urban re-models (so, fake and real cityscapes). The customer logic is simple: it’s more interesting. And, as online sales keep growing double digit, that’s going to be the number one attribute that drives ‘bricks’ sales.

At a classic regional center, I count the times I walk into a store (3 year old design, sleepy sales people, lackluster display, over-inventoried sales floor, sale goods galore) and think “why am I here?” Minimum, 10 times per mall.

Unless retailers come up with a compelling reason to go to their stores vs. just buy it online, consumers will not go. Especially at $4+ a gallon. Lifestyle centers are just the beginning.

Liz Crawford
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

I love it. To me, this is a great match because women who enjoy shopping and meeting their girlfriends now have a single-stop for an hour or two of retail enjoyment. I could see a private membership lifestyle environment with exclusive goods and private chefs, too. Is this for everyone? Nope. Does it need to be?

Mark Lilien
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

If current economic trends continue, it’s unlikely that restaurants in lifestyle centers will continue to expand. The big sales growth right now: stores with significant grocery volume (warehouse clubs, drug stores, dollar stores, supermarkets, etc.) What restaurants and women’s apparel have in common: the margins are higher than men’s apparel, hard goods (books, appliances, electronics, etc.) and certainly groceries.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
13 years 11 months ago

Women’s RTW is now dominated by destination specialty retailers, which is a long way from a generation or two ago when department stores still dominated the category. Department stores needed malls, and so did these specialty stores as long as that’s where the traffic was.

Lifestyle centers combine destination retailers with ease of access and convenience. They also insulate retailers somewhat from the endless promotions and discounting overwhelming mall based retailing. Upscale Womens RTW, therefore, naturally fits, as do destination chains like Best Buy and B&N, and others, supported by upscale specialty eateries.

Dick Seesel
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

Women’s apparel stores still dominate the tenant mix at regional malls (if you include junior-oriented chains such as Abercrombie, Forever 21, etc.) so it’s not surprising that these retailers would become key to the success of lifestyle centers as well. So I’m not sure there is a story here…but, on the other hand, the importance of dining is key. Restaurants and other entertainment venues (movie theaters, etc.) are critical to the idea that a lifestyle center represents “the new downtown” even in a suburban location, and they are also critical to the idea of extending the shopper’s time at the center.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
13 years 11 months ago

Women’s ready-to-wear fits lifestyle centers because it’s shopping that engages the consumer. Women shop for clothing both to find what they need and as an activity they enjoy. If other retail segments are going to become lifestyle center focused, they need to be segments that provide the consumer with an experience or allow them to express their emotions and feelings while they are shopping.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
13 years 11 months ago

Lifestyle Centers are more convenient and make it an easy stop on the working professional’s lunch break for a quick stop and pick up, vs. walking through a mall and using your lunch break just to get to the store.

Other stores that would benefit from Lifestyle Center locations are card stores, small gift stores, accessory stores and shoe stores.

Anne Howe
Guest
13 years 11 months ago

I think lifestyle centers are more than just about apparel for women. Shopping is part of culture and many of the centers have just gotten the mix right! In areas that lack a true downtown district, these concepts work really well, but it’s all about location!

A fabulous lifestyle center is near Columbus, called Easton. From an amazing scrapbookers store, to Trader Joe’s, from ice-cream shops to Smith & Wollensky, from movie theaters to a central outdoor stage for community events, there are countless options to explore without counting on just an apparel focus.

And then there is C.O. Bigelow’s–an apothecary of pure pleasure for the senses! And the best DSW on the planet is right there–(ahhh, new shoes!)

I’ve been there for business, pleasure, college visits, and have detoured/timed out vacation drives to allow for some shopping/lunch visits. What’s not to love?

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
13 years 11 months ago

Let’s think about this: convenient, easy access, warm and welcoming environment, lots of restaurants…. Can’t speak for the other guys, but I don’t need all that. One store and one transaction is enough for me.

So it would seem natural that if a lifestyle centre (looks like a fancy plaza to me) turns shopping into a pleasant, relaxing and convenient experience, women would flock there. That said, RTW and other “instant gratification” type stores would make a killing. Eat, shop, leave the husband at home.

All they need to add is a staffed kids play area with drop off.

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