Intu Properties, formerly Capital Shopping Centres, may not exactly be a household brand name but roughly half of all British people are customers of the company.
It owns some of the biggest and best known shopping centres including Manchester’s Trafford Centre and Kent’s Lakeside and has 400 million customers going through its shopping centres every year.
Intu is colossal in the UK: It’s listed on the London Stock Exchange with a market cap of £4.2 billion ($US6.6 billion) and the total value of Intu’s properties is worth around £9 billion ($US14.1 billion).
Around 1 million people walking through Intu’s doors on an average day. The 115,000 people who work in Intu shopping centres also account for 4% of Britain’s retail workforce.
But growing to this size isn’t easy.
“It’s not widely understood just how huge Intu is,” said David Fischel, CEO of Intu, to Business Insider. “We’re everywhere, we have 18 centres across the whole of the UK as well as Spain too. We have an annual footfall of 25 million which is the same as filling Wembley stadium every day! But the business has changed dramatically over last 30 years.”
“Shopping centres are no longer just big shopping areas with a food court attached — it’s an all-singing-and-dancing destination with shops, restaurants, activities and events. Shopping hours have also changed and consumers act differently.”
So, with this in mind, Fischel told Business Insider about the secrets behind getting customers to spend more money.
Making customers stay for one more minute a trip makes millions of pounds
Fischel told Business Insider that people spend around £5.5 billion ($US8.7 billion) a year in Intu’s
18 shopping centres in Britain. He also estimates that around half of Britain’s population has at some point visited an Intu shopping centre and the average dwell time for a customer is 100 minutes.
“An average spend per minute in our shopping centres is around £55 million ($US87 million). So if shoppers stay for an extra one minute, they spend an extra £55 million ($US87 million) and for an extra 5 minutes then the total spend increases by £275 million ($US433 million),” said Fischel.
“This chart may look like it points out the obvious but it’s really good to see a quantification of how a happy customer will stay longer in a centre and spend more money.”
Make sure there’s a massive amount of choice for food and beverages and non-shopping
In order to keep more people in a shopping centre for longer, Fischel says that everything from the “ambiance, to the signage” makes a huge difference to how long people will stay.
You can have hundreds of shops but it’s really about making sure that a family won’t leave the centre for the entire day because they don’t need to.
As Fischel says, the company wants people to see going to their shopping centres as “making a day of it.”
“What we’ve seen over the last few years in the UK is a really strong growth in the food and beverage area. Initially there 340 units (food outlets) across the centres and now there’s over 3,000 and that number is continuing to grow,” said Fischel. “Attractions is also a key way to keep people staying in centre for longer.”
“The intu Trafford Centre, which is the largest shopping centre we have by market value at £2.2 billion ($US3.5 billion) has the Sealife aquarium while intu Brayhead has an indoor sky slope. At Christmas we put up ice rinks. It’s all about keeping people entertained.”
Make sure there’s an Apple Store inside
Apple is famous for the ridiculously long queues to get into their stores on a product launch day — people go crazy and some queue for days.
That’s why having an Apple store in a shopping centre is a massive bonus to keeping people in the store and spending more money.
“Apple has got around 39 stores in the UK and we’ve got 12 of those in our centres,” said Fischel. “Having an Apple store in your shopping centre is a kitemark for being a prime location. The customer flow from just having an Apple store is strong.”
“Even if you’re not going to buy anything in Apple necessarily, it draws more people to the centres because of the fanfare and the curiosity, meaning people will spend more everywhere surrounding it. It may seem like a paradox because it’s a brand that caused the greatest disruption to physical commerce, yet is also one of our best tenants.”
Get big brands to do shows or massive launches in your centres
With that in mind, Fischel says that Intu signs deals with major companies to do launch events or hold shows at its centre — drawing in more customers.
They just signed a deal with Fox cinema to do a special event around a movie launch but the details aren’t finalised yet.
“In the US, Tesla is a great example of how massive companies can use shopping centres to their advantage. They’re not rolling out expensive showrooms — they’re using shopping centres to promote and bring in big crowds for their products,” said Fischel.
Make sure your website brings people to the shops
Fischel said that while many physical shops may feel threatened by the boom in e-commerce, Intu uses its digital presence to actually bring more people in store.
Making sure Wi-fi and 4G is available for people going through its shopping centres is a huge deal in keeping customers happy, says Fischel, as well as making sure its websites for its centres are streamlined.
“After putting all the shopping centres onto one unified website, it has made a huge difference in terms of customers being better informed before they shop, and maybe go out to a centre for a day because of the promotions we push,” said Fischel. “It’s also a virtuous circle for getting more advertising and revenue from companies as we’re able to offer big marketing packages that encompass online and in-store, as well as huge events.”
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