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Retail Focus - Mall Facade Design to Improve Footfall

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Matt Kitson, Regional Director Qatar, gives his view on facade design to improve footfall and the future of retail spaces.

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How can Mall design (especially facades) improve footfall?

Maximising footfall and dwell time in malls and other shopping destinations is the highest priority for any retail developer around the world. The social aspect of city living also has an impact as people strive toward convenience and a place where you can not only shop but also socialise. So location, location, location is still a key driver in the success of retail developments coupled with the experience.

In addition designers of shopping destinations call upon a number of core ingredients to deliver these goals such as providing destinations for the whole family; delivering high standards of food and beverage experience; good parking and good alternative transport links such as bus and rail.

One important aspect of mall design that impacts dwell time that sometimes get overlooked is providing the shopper with thermal comfort during all times of the year and a high degree of daylight. This provides a visual stimulus for the shopper.

Retail Quote 1Independent research in the United States from retail malls and large outlets has shown that daylight can significantly drive footfall and increase dwell time. The Pacific Gas & Electric study of 1999 found that stores with daylight had up to a 40% increase in sales. In addition the HMG independent study of 2001 which examined 73 Wall Mart Stores where 24 of them had significant daylighting designed in to the fabric of the outlet had a 20% to 40% increase in sales.

Other benefits of this daylight design approach were better employer satisfaction and reduced operating costs through switching off/dimming of artificial lighting.

The trick for the designer is to use facades in a clever way to allow good proportions of daylight in to the space, while at the same time keeping the direct solar gain out of the space to deliver occupant thermal comfort. This can be achieved by positioning roof lights away from the predominant sun paths during summer and mid-season monthly periods, and employing external shading devices such as blades and mashrabiya. At Hilson Moran we refer to this as ‘designing for daylight and comfort’.

The designer can call upon a number of computer modelling tools that can be used to assess sun path, solar gain and daylight levels around and inside of retail schemes -Computational Fluid Dynamics & Dynamic Thermal Modelling. Hilson Moran employs these tools in-house and applies them on all of our retail schemes.

What makes a mall stand out in a region so full of them?

Avenues 1It’s true to say over the past 10 years we have seen an exponential growth in retail in our cities fuelled by the growth in population. Around 70% of the world’s population now live in, or close to cities, and they all need a place to shop for consumer items and food.

Qatar is no exception to this with an expected 5% increase in food consumption by 2017. This is one of the highest anticipated rises in the GCC.

However, retail can have a positive effect on tourism in our cities and one of the best examples of this in the Middle East is in Dubai with around 8 million visitors per year arriving to shop and enjoy the city’s hospitality. Dubai is now without doubt the ‘shopping capital of the Middle East’ with 70 shopping malls including the largest in the world, Dubai Mall, which in itself is a big draw.

Avenues 2Dubai Mall is quite an astonishing place due to its sheer size. You can basically get anything you want there; it also boasts an aquarium, water slide, and different dining experiences as part of the attraction.

However, it’s not just about the modern mall. There is also a wealth of traditional heritage design too. One retail destination that continues to be very successful and hold its own in the region is the Jumeirah Madinat which is slight modern twist on the traditional Souk. Here the facades are detailed using traditional materials such as wood.

Maybe the stand out mall of the future will be a marriage of modern and traditional approaches with both inside and outside spaces providing the shopper with more choice of experience.

How has Mall design progressed in recent years?

We are still seeing a great diversity of retail destination designs from the modern glass box through to the more traditional approach and we are starting to witness an amalgamation of this with schemes such as Marina Mall in Qatar and The Avenues in Kuwait. With both of these projects, the designers have started to use new facade materials such as ETFE coupled with a mix of shop frontage design to add variation and grain to the mall/street. Both have a good degree of natural light in the space which will help them stand out from the crowd.

What do you feel is the next stage?

There are some interesting facade developments on the horizon that may impact the way designers approach retail designs. Electrochromic glass - small electrical current changes the solar properties of the glass from 70% to 5% transmission over time - is now becoming more affordable and we will start to see this smart glass technology applied to the roof lights of our retail developments. This will allow the schemes to protect consumers from the sun in the day when needed, and become clear in the evening to assist with views out. This technology will also assist designs to maximise the amount of daylight during all hours of the day, improving foot fall and dwell time.

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