Thirteen years ago, one of Mayfaire’s developers said, “Town centers are the malls of this century,” in a story in the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
Recent shopping center research continues to support H.J. Brody’s assertion, especially when it comes to retail and entertainment hubs like Mayfaire Town Center and Mayfaire Community Center.
The number of lifestyle centers, defined as centers with retail areas of 150,000 to 500,000 square feet with upscale and national specialty retail, as well as entertainment and outdoor spaces, rose from representing 9 percent of all shopping malls in the U.S. in 2009 to 15 percent in 2013, a number that held steady this year, according to the 2014 State of the Shopping Center report produced by Nielsen.
“The rise of lifestyle centers is driven in part by their newness,” the report says, pointing out that
traditional mall concepts, like regional centers and super-regional centers, have median opening years of 1981 and 1976, respectively, while for lifestyle centers, the median opening date is 2006.
Mayfaire Town and Community centers include more than 660,000 square feet of space. Community centers, defined as offering general merchandise and convenience according to the report, comprise 46 percent of U.S. shopping centers in 2014.
“Consumers are drawn to the excitement of a new concept and a new shopping experience,” the report states.
Does that mean a place like Mayfaire Town Center has taken away business from other, older centers in the region like Independence Mall, built in 1979?
“I’m not saying retail has necessarily left Independence Mall, it’s just not going there,” said William “Woody” Hall, professor of economics at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Hall and another UNCW economics professor, Claude Farrell, were part of a university research team contracted by Mayfaire developers to study the economic impact of the project before it was built, a study completed in 2000.
It’s likely that Mayfaire has lured away some of the higher-end retailers that might have considered the mall, Hall said.
In the 10 years since stores opened in Mayfaire Town Center, some retailers have moved their stores to the Military Cutoff corridor from other parts of town, including Barnes & Noble and Marshalls, which celebrated its grand opening in September in Mayfaire Community Center after vacating New Centre Market off New Centre Drive.
Hall said about 20 years ago, a developer asked UNCW researchers to see if they could determine, based on the location of Landfall, what kind of direct sales, such as catalog sales, were occurring at the time.
“The types of business that existed here didn’t satisfy their needs,” Hall said. “That kind of information probably was another incentive for something like Mayfaire to be developed.”
In 2014, just as traditional malls have been affected by a rise in the popularity of new shopping center concepts, brick-and-mortar businesses are expected to face increasing competition from another kind of direct sales: e-commerce.
But the State of the Shopping Center report said, “Brick-and-mortar, online and mobile are not mutually exclusive in the consumer shopping experience. Retailers should incorporate all three to create an integrated omni-channel retail strategy that uses mobile as the glue between online and brick-and-mortar shopping.”
Millennals, defined by Nielsen as people born between 1977 and 1994, are more likely to use an omni-channel approach to their purchases, the report says.
And while lifestyle centers are on the rise, they don’t resonate with millennials because of their typical tenant mix, according to Nielsen data. Still, millennials do visit lifestyle centers for some of the businesses Mayfaire offers: the restaurants, gyms, apparel retailers like Victoria’s Secret and movie theaters, the report says.
The ability to keep up with the times, developers say, is critical for any shopping center to stay viable.
“You retweak your presence and how you continue to market yourself and how you continue to present yourself to the public,” Brody said in a recent interview. “I think the challenge is to stay fresh with the mix.”
Read more about Mayfaire's decade of development here