Achieving a vibrant mix of retailers is an essential part of managing and growing shopping centre income. As fashion can account for over 60% of turnover at large shopping centres, there is no more important merchandise category. However, it is common for asset managers to plan fashion mix in terms of functional segments (e.g. ladieswear, outerwear, underwear etc.) rather than to match the offer in their centres to the emotional needs of shoppers.

Retail mix planning is often driven by the desire to attract the best performing occupiers, rather than to follow Marshall Field’s maxim, “Give the lady what she wants”. The diverse nature of consumer demand means that many shopping centres actually underserve visitors to a scale equivalent to between 20% and 70% of potential turnover.

Recognising the limitations of using traditional techniques, our sister company FSP uses customer image perceptions to classify brands. This classification (FISH) uses a simple two dimensional matrix of shopper attitudes. The first axis captures shoppers’ attitudes to their ‘thinking age’; “How young or old do I feel and wish to appear?” sub-divided into five individual categories: Young, Assured, Family, Classic and Old. The second axis reflects the message which the purchaser hopes to convey by wearing the item they have purchased: Fashionable, Individual, Safe or Homely.

For example, Armani and Burberry are Assured Fashion, Superdry is Young Fashion, while Classic Individual can be defined by brands such as Jaeger or LK Bennett. Deichmann, Primark and new entrant Pep & Co are good examples of Family Safe brands, while Hugo Boss, Zara and Mango exemplify the Assured Individual category.
Fashion demand is driven by the geographical location and the role of centres, as shown by these examples in the UK and France:

– Industrial towns such as Wigan tend to have strong demand for Young and Family fashion; affluent provincial cities such as Chester have strong consumer demand for Assured and Classic brands, while metropolitan suburbs of Greater London tend to have strong demand for Assured and Young fashion e.g. Kingston-upon-Thames

– Historic town centres with attractive environments such as Bordeaux tend to attract strong demand for Assured and Classic fashion brands whilst more functional out of town district centres such as Centre Commercial de Flins near Paris tend to attract Young and Family fashion demand

Shopping centres which recognise and meet the needs of customers tend to achieve higher visitor conversion and greater sales. Using a matrix of shopper attitudes enables asset managers to understand how best to meet the needs of shoppers; how to provide an offer which will attract consumers from competing centres, and to prioritise those occupiers best placed to deliver improved visitor performance.