In a disrupted retail climate where online shopping offers the ultimate in convenience and choice, shopping centres around the world are exploring innovative new ways to engage with a post-digital audience.
While e-commerce continues to embed itself as a pragmatic everyday device – an action that can be performed at work, on the train, from your sofa – consumers have begun looking beyond the mere transactional for something more tangible.
The global public demand for health and wellness-related goods and services (a segment referred to as ‘wellcare’) is now driving change across a range of industries, from tourism and aviation to FMCG and tech. Encompassing food, wellness and fitness to beauty and environmental sustainability, the wellcare segment is growing rapidly, fuelled by significant consumer demand both here in Australia and internationally.
According to Skye Fisher, General Manager - Strategy and Product Development, QIC is meeting this expectation by creating human-centric environments, which provide services, education and inspiration that seamlessly integrate into the customer experience.
“We are living in the wellness decade,” says Fisher. “Health and wellness is no longer a trend, it’s now a societal expectation and we are well positioned to support this desire to feel good and live well.”
She adds: “As daily life continues to be framed around digital interactions, consumers are seeking out more human experiences; experiences that connect them with others. As such, we have a responsibility to help serve our community’s whole-life needs.”
Recent years have seen a wave of health and wellness-related offers integrated into the retail landscape, with the likes of juice bars, healthy food court options, organic beauty products, supplement retailers, athleisure wear brands and on-site gyms now de rigeur in most suburban shopping centres.
Globally, it’s clear to see that the retail sector is wasting no time leveraging the health and wellness trend in a bid to boost visitation and create new opportunities for connection with consumers. In a 2017 interview with The New York Times, Saks Fifth Avenue president Marc Metrick referred to wellness as “the new luxury,” adding that “[Luxury] used to be about fur and leather… [now] people just want to feel better.”
At its flagship store in Manhattan, Saks Fifth Avenue trialled The Wellery, a dedicated health and wellness sanctuary designed to help customers “get fit, centred and styled” via a range of health and wellness-focused classes, services and experiences including salt therapy rooms, yoga classes, guided meditation sessions, boot camp fitness workouts, golf simulators and more.
Although the space included a complementary retail component – selling everything from sports bags and yoga pants to designer bicycles and natural beauty products – Metrick says the space was “less about moving product, and more about forging relationships with Saks customers,” a concept that feeds into what analysts have already identified as a key driver for today’s consumer: the desire for experiences over having more stuff.
In this age of information saturation and fake news, consumers are craving authenticity like never before and there’s only so far that an online exchange can model the genuineness of a real human experience. Combine this with an increased emphasis on healthy eating, exercise and an appetite for experiences over things and the modern shopping centre is shaping up as a particularly fertile environment for wellness initiatives and authentic human connection.
At QIC centres around Australia, customers of all ages have embraced the introduction of health and wellness experiences. In Queensland, Noosa Civic hosts its own ‘mindful and creative space’ Haven, which includes a range of creative and wellness-focused activities for adults and children.
Along with guided yoga and meditation sessions Haven offers classes in ceramics, crafting, watercolour painting and more. Aimed at girls aged nine to 12, Haven’s popular ‘Shine from Within’ workshops are designed to build confidence, boost wellbeing and provide insights into building meaningful friendships.
Meanwhile, at Eastland in outer-eastern Melbourne, Happy Campers, a school holiday wellness hub designed for primary-aged children, saw more than 2,300 young people take up the chance to explore their creativity, participate in workouts and learn the secrets of healthy living. Sessions included children’s yoga, circus skills, silent disco, boot camp and healthy cooking classes for families. In a further win for all involved, the $5 class fee saw Eastland raise almost $7000 for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.Katrina Little, QIC's Head of Marketing, states: “Our customers are telling us that education is just as important to them as entertainment, especially for children in the pre-teen age group. Children today are hungry for knowledge, connection, new skills and real experiences – and their parents want these things for them, too. Some of our most successful initiatives have been those designed for parents and children to participate in together.”
At a community level, Watergardens Town Centre in Melbourne’s western suburbs hosts dedicated health and wellbeing days, providing family-friendly cooking and living demonstrations alongside live entertainment. The event has been successful in encouraging signups for partner program Sons of the West (SOTW), a 10-week program run by AFL club Western Bulldogs’ dedicated Community Foundation that is designed to get men in the western suburbs talking about their physical and mental health and making positive lifestyle changes.
Graduates of the program and its sister program Daughters of the West worked with Watergardens Town Centre management to set up Watergardens Walkers, a weekly exercise group that sees locals of all ages walking around the centre every Thursday evening in an effort to improve their health. Volunteer group leader Terry Charles says that not only has the initiative helped people get active and build new relationships, it’s also given some members the tools they need to embrace a healthier lifestyle. “It helps people out of depression and helps to change lifestyles,” Charles says.
As health and wellness aspirations continue to shape the habits and desires of consumers, QIC is committed to evolving with them. More than ever, the wellcare trend resonates with our resolve to deliver meaningful experiences, which enable our communities to come together and thrive.