A Mall with Balls

A Mall with Balls

Posted on 09. Apr, 2013 by ideaworks in retail strategy

Eleven thousand kilometres is an awfully long way to go shopping. That’s how far I travelled recently on a trip to Santiago Chile, to see what I could find that was new and exciting in world retail. Granted, I was there to take part in the WPP* The Store Global Retail Forum. But I couldn’t wait to get out of the could-be-anywhere-hotel and explore the wilds of retail, Latin American-style. Vive la diferencia!

So imagine my relative disappointment when I walked Costanera Center, Latin America’s newest, shiniest, biggest mall, right in the heart of Santiago. A review on Trip Advisor nailed it when they called the Center “nice”. Yes, it’s large (140,000 sq.m) and filled to the brim with the usual suspects (H&M launched there in a 2,600 sq.m box a week or so ago). And yes, it’s successful, with 210,000 people swarming the centre on its opening weekend in 2012. But it’s just so damn soulless and boring. A mall on Mogadon.

Fortunately, my spirits lifted when I trekked a little further out of town and came across MallSport. This is a mall with balls. Lots of them actually. Soccer balls. Tennis balls. Golf balls. Plus a huge range of other sports represented. Because MallSport is an entire shopping centre 100% dedicated to the pursuit of sport and fitness.

I loved it, because it had the courage to actually stand for something. Costanera Center is middle-of-the-city, middle-of-the-road. MallSport is on the fringe and on the edge. A destination for adventure-seeking, game-playing, outdoor-loving Chileans.

At MallSport, you can shop for everything from a bike to a boat. And it’s not just stores. There are not one but two gyms. You can grab a meal at a place called “Burgers, Beer & Boards”. You can also hit the skate park, surf the wave pool, climb the indoor mountain, or take the Air Trail. The latter is a first…and possibly a last for shopping malls. For A$6-$8, willing participants strap themselves into harnesses and attempt to navigate an obstacle course 11 metres in the air, with no net. (At last I had discovered something genuinely, crazily Latin American. I’d love to see them try to explain that one to the OH&S guys.)

It was once said of another centre that I admire, Santana Row in San Jose, California; “the public wanted more from a shopping experience than walking across a giant parking lot into a generic mall.” In a post-digital age, shopping malls have to deliver something more than the dictionary definition of “a collection of shops”.

Where Costanera Center left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied (a bit like eating a large glazed donut – looks great, but filled with sugar, air and a hole in the middle), MallSport was something new, different and substantial. I have tried to research its performance, without success to date, but I admire what it’s trying to achieve. For my money, adrenaline beats Mogadon anyday.

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2 Responses to “A Mall with Balls”

  1. Mary Wallace

    10. Apr, 2013

    Love your post. It’s so true that what customers are looking for in a great shopping experience is a voice, a point of view, some heart and soul – otherwise, why would I trust you longer than one simple transaction? Any more nuggets from your trip?

  2. Jon Bird

    11. Apr, 2013

    Thanks for your comments Mary. Plenty more nuggets, but that was the retail experience I loved.

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