Exclusive for ShoppingCenters.com
By Barry Caylor, VP Business Development, Outside the Lines, Inc. (OTL)
In the wake of the pandemic’s acute phase, brick-and-mortar retail is experiencing a resurgence.
As people return to the in-person experiences they have been missing for the last two years, many retail stakeholders are considering how to attract customers to their centers. And while an omnichannel strategy makes sense for today’s retailers, bringing customers into the store is key; the 50% of adult shoppers who buy online and pickup in store (BOPIS) are likely to buy more products while picking up their order.
Part of the answer to drawing in shoppers lies in the design of these destinations. When retail design speaks to what shoppers are craving, both aesthetically and functionally, people are drawn to these centers and want to spend more time there—and ultimately more money.
As industry leaders in water features and themed environments, our company has witnessed the powerful role of water features in retail design. Moreover, we have seen these amenities help turn shopping centers into community gathering places where people want to socialize, shop, dine, and be entertained.
Here are a few ways incorporating water features into retail centers can increase ROI, impact bottom line, and help draw people back to these locations in a post-pandemic world.
1. Water features are a safe and attractive outdoor amenity.
After becoming the new normal for enjoying public places safely, outdoor retail amenities continue to grow in popularity. Water features, with their long history as central gathering places, align well with this trend.
Many retail owners install fountains outside their shopping centers, usually near a main entryway or in a courtyard. In addition to enhancing the property’s overall aesthetic, these features offer visitors a place to enjoy the water’s pleasing sights and sounds.
For example, our company worked closely with landscape architect Lifescapes International, project architect Architects Orange and general contractor Moorefield Construction to design and build a multisensory show fountain for The Veranda, CenterCal Properties’ 375,000 square-foot retail, dining and entertainment destination in Concord, California. The fountain, located at the heart of the property, serves as the focal point of this location, attracting visitors from many miles around.
Integrating water features into outdoor retail design satisfies shoppers’ desire to be around others safely while increasing their length of stay – which has been shown to drive sales.
2. Show fountains provide the immersive experiences people are seeking.
Consumers are increasingly interested in experiential retail, which consists of adding elements such as art, live music, virtual reality, cafes and lounges, and large video display walls to the shopping environment. Incorporating show fountains into retail design can deliver these experiences, giving people one more reason to visit shopping centers.
An example of this is the experiential water feature OTL designed and built for Renaissance at Colony Park, Phase II, an open-air destination retail center in Ridgeland, Mississippi, co-owned and developed by The Mattiace Company. The show fountain features cutting-edge audio, lighting, and effects to deliver a unique visual and concert-quality experience via customized shows that transform the center into an entertainment hub.
Water features with immersive aspects like these add a sense of wonder and magic to customers’ shopping center trips that encourages them to stay longer, visit often, and bring their friends and family, which has the potential to increase retail sales.
3. These amenities can reduce operating costs.
As energy prices rise, retail owners and operators are looking for ways to keep ROI up while keeping operating costs in check. Water features can help with this goal in several ways.
First, modern fountains conserve water by running with recirculated water; in fact, almost all the fountains our team builds are engineered to recirculate water. While it may seem counterintuitive, fountains actually lose far less water to evaporation than grass lawns do.
Also, today’s water features can be managed remotely, with systems that alert operators immediately if a leak is detected and controls that shut off the fountain automatically or manually from off-site if an emergency arises. These systems protect properties from damage and prevent unnecessary operating costs.
In addition, atrium fountains and other interior water features can be engineered and built so that they actually decrease HVAC and energy use when integrated into a shopping center’s environmental system, which can substantially reduce energy costs. Special systems like these need to be incorporated into a project during early design stages.
As retail stakeholders strive to entice shoppers back to their properties and increase profitability post-pandemic, water features can help.
By delivering a safe and attractive amenity, providing the immersive experiences people are seeking and reducing operating costs, incorporating water features into retail design can help owners and operators achieve these objectives well into the future.
Vice President of Business Development, Outside the Lines, Inc.
Barry Caylor is the Vice President of Business Development for Outside the Lines, Inc., a design-build themed construction company that specializes in creating one-of-a-kind rockwork, water features and themed environments for retail entertainment, hospitality, gaming, and golf properties around the globe. More information is available at www.otl-inc.com.