Posted by Ashley Carlton on Sun, Aug 30, 2015 @ 9:16 PM
Retail Landscaping, The New Experience:
When thinking about creating a retail environment that stimulates shoppers’ spending habits and experiences, flashy branding and aesthetically pleasing displays make a lot of sense, but what if there was something a little less expected, and yet so much more naturally nurturing and powerful to the human experience?
In decades before today, city dwellers expelled themselves from the urban environment, seeking out the less congested neighborhoods of the suburbs, and all shopping needs being addressed by the enclosed, glass, metal, and stone of department stores and malls.
Coinciding with this sociological shift, research has been conducted since the 1970’s investigating the need and benefit of nature as part of the daily human experience. One of the overriding pieces of evidence shows that environments featuring greenery and natural elements are, “… consistently preferred over non-green urban settings, or environments dominated by artefacts,” (Joye, et al. 2010).
In keeping with those studied benefits, landscape infrastructure is no longer as simple as planting plants to give a more affluent, manicured aesthetic, but a tool to build better urban spaces, “from the layout of streets, sidewalks, plazas, and buildings to outdoor natural features and amenities that are iconic and in tune with cultural, social, and environmental uniqueness,” says Randall Shearin of Shopping Center Business.
Given the shift in the human experience’s needs, people have begun to seek out establishments and areas that aren’t just purely for retail, but also opportunities to have stimulation on a social and personal, internal level.
Appropriately, design firms and investors have responded by renovating existing traditional mall formats to open-air venues and town centers, like the City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City. Places like this give specific attention to the original environment they are built around, or in. In this case, large trees and a creek create a natural traffic pattern that allows the space to feel as though it was an original part of the landscape anyways, as if the town center itself grew as part of the landscape.
These open-air venues turn people who were primarily customers visiting specific businesses into community members who took ownership of the space. This seems like this rich, green, urban oasis could only be benefitting those patrons who visit the developments, but not so.
“Having a tenant in front of the main square is like having a retailer at center court in the mall; tenants want to be along those public spaces,” says Yaromir Steiner, CEO of Steiner + Associates, a leading developer of mixed-use environments. “The square attracts people. Kids can play in the fountain; adults can go to the farmer’s market or listen to concerts. It builds traffic.”
By visiting mixed-use environments that give, “experiences and places for shoppers to enhance — and increase — their visits,” says Shearin, they offer different venues to create a similar convenience of online shopping, a hard thing to compete with, until now. Simultaneously, environments are designed where people seek an experience that enhances and enriches their daily lives, local economy is stimulated and supported, and thereby creating a natural and mutually beneficial balance between the man-made, and nature’s best offerings.