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The Mullan Contracting Company joined more than 2500 attendees of the Mid-Atlantic International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) deal-making session at National Harbor recently. Among the topics discussed at the conference was “authenticity,” which pertains to how landlords and owners address shopping center renovations and improvements. This concept comes in play when the owner is replacing a bench, and has to decide between real wood and plastic. In terms of trees and its positioning and decoration, should they be large shade trees that provide comfort to visitors? And, should these trees be decorated with twinkling lights or be bare?
The latest research indicates that “authenticity” is preferred by shopping audience, which translates to real trees that look natural (no lights), plentiful landscaping and the elimination of plastic or artificial elements (piped-in music is an example). In addition, they prefer centers with varied storefronts that add interest and excitement to the shopping environment. Authentic-looking centers create a comfort level among shoppers.
“Place-making” is another new buzzword making the rounds. This concept encourages increased and extended social interaction by integrating each of the gathering places of the community including the streets, sidewalks, parks, buildings and public areas. It lengthens the experience and dwell-time of the visitor at the project. Stated simply, if consumers find places within the center to relax, sit and enjoy, they will linger for longer periods of time. And, shop more.