The Changing Face of Retail

Australia’s largest shopping centres are undergoing a significant transformation to their tenancy mix following new consumer spending patterns after the COVID 19 pandemic, according to the latest PAR Group study.

In spite of rising cost of living pressures, a number of low price-point retailers have vacated major centres, while luxury retailers have increased have become more prevalent within the same centres since 2020.

The study reviewed the occupancy of two major shopping centres in each mainland Australian state (NSW – Bondi Junction and Warringah Mall, Victoria – Chadstone and Highpoint, Queensland – Chermside and Pacific Fair, South Australia – Marion and Tea Tree Plaza and Western Australia – Carousel and Lakeside Joondalup) using data from 2020 and late 2023. In total 3,373 tenancies across these 10 centres were reviewed as part of this study.

The study found:

  • On average, 7.1% of tenants per year within these centres have changed since 2020 – or a 21.3% change since the pandemic.
  • Changes to tenancy have primarily been fashion, food and beverage and health and beauty retailers.
  • In spite of the tenancy turnover since 2020, the vacancy rate is virtually unchanged. In total, there has only been a net reduction of three tenants within the centres analysed.
  • Since 2020, 729 retailers have vacated the major shopping centres sampled. Of these, 36.9% of departing tenants were fashion retailers, 22.1% were food and beverage retailers and 15.5% were health and beauty retailers.
  • In contrast, 726 new retailers commenced trading since 2020. Of these, 35.3% of new tenants were fashion retailers, 31% were food and beverage retailers and 10.6% were health and beauty retailers.
  • A significant number of retailers closed three or more stores in the ten-centre sample including travel related retailers (Flight Centre, STA Travel, Unimoni and Travel Money Oz) and fashion retailers (Alice McCall, Ally Fashion, Fossil, Furla, Hugo Boss, Noni B, Oxford, Pavement, Rockmans, Sass and Bide, Sussan, TEMT, Universal Traveller, Valley Girl and Wittner).
  • These closures have been offset by 32 retailers who opened three or more stores in the reviewed centres, including fashion retailers (Academy Brands, AJE Athletica, Betts, Billini, Dr Martens, Ghanda, Industrie, LSKD, Macpac, Nude Lucy, Pera, Polo Ralph Lauren, Stateside Sports and Stylerunner) and food and beverage retailers (Boost Juice, Machi Machi, and Sushi Jiro). Other major new retailers included Amplifon, Celebrity Ink Tattoo, Elite Supplements, Lego, Mint My Desk, Mobile Experts and Star Phones. In general, the large shopping centres have become more sport/recreation orientated.
  • While there has been significant changes to the mix of retailers, 39 retailers continued to operate across all 10 centres (Adairs, Bed Bath and Table, Boost, Bras and Things, Coles, Dotti, EB Games, Flight Centre, General Pants Co, Hype DC, Just Jeans, Kmart, Lorna Jane, Lovisa, Mecca, Medibank, Mister Minit, Myer, NAB, OPSM, Optus, Oscar Wylee, Pandora, Peter Alexander, Platypus Shoes, Priceline, Rebel, Shaver Shop, Skechers, Smiggle, Specsavers, Sunglass Hut, Swarovski, T2, Telstra, The Athletes Foot, The Body Shop, Vodafone and Woolworths). These retailers account for 11.6% of all retailers within the 10 centres reviewed.  

 

Key Findings/Trends

  • In spite of the impact of increased cost of living pressures, a number of low-cost brands have reduced the store footprint, in particular women’s fashion.

 

  • There has been growth in luxury retailers traditionally found in city centres or major retail strips. Retailers Boss, Dior, Ferragamo, IWC Schaffhausen, Polo Ralph Lauren, TAG Heuer and Versace all opened stores within the centres reviewed since 2020.

 

  • Equally, traditionally big box retailer Ikea has emerged as a shopping centre retailer, at Highpoint, using a reduced store footprint.

 

  • There has been a growth in entertainment retailers with mini golf retailer Holey Moley and escape room retailer Hijinx Hotel rolling out new stores.

 

  • The proportional increase of food and beverage tenants within centres is reflective of moves by owners and managers to increase foot traffic in centres but also reduce the tenancy risk profile of their centres given online retails impact on fashion retailers.

 

  • There has been a slow growth in services retailers (medical, co working, gyms) which is possibly linked to the premium rents in these major centres.

 

  • The Covid 19 pandemic has reduced by up to 70% the number of travel related retailers such as Flight Centre and currency exchanges within the centres reviewed.

 

Implications

Australia’s largest shopping centres are evolving post the COVID 19 pandemic, in response to changes in consumer behaviour and spending patterns.

Online shopping grew significantly during the pandemic – in 2023 10% of all retail spending was spent online. As a result, major shopping centres are evolving to attract more consumers into their centres. This is evident in a number of occupancy trends. The growth of luxury brands and decline in affordable retailers in these largest centres is linked to the availability of the products offered online. The experience and service of shopping at a Dior or Versace cannot be replicated online. This is in contrast to affordable clothing which are often cheaper online than in the physical store.

The growth and decline of these retailers would appear contrary to broader cost of living pressures. The growth of luxury retailers will likely be limited to the largest retail centres which have the benefit of a large footfall, rather than more local community focused centres. Smaller centres will continue to offer a tenancy mix focused around daily needs (supermarkets, discount department stores, chemists, hairdressers etc).

In terms of structural changes to the tenancy mix – the food and beverage sector has recorded the largest growth in tenants during the study period. In spite of the small difference (-3) between new and departed retailers, there has been a significant increase in food and beverage retailers, a net increase of 64 retailers. No other retailer type recorded this level of growth or decline. Cafes, gelato, burgers and Japanese options were the largest types of food retailers to open since 2020.  Many of the new food and beverage retailers are independent operators rather than chain restaurants. Among the food and beverage retailers to close – bakeries and sandwich retailers were the largest operators, which may be a reflection of increased working from home.

Non retail offering such as gyms, childcares, medical and co-working spaces have grown moderately since 2020. However, more intensive residential development around and above major centres may see these retailers continue to grow in the future.

Looking ahead, major shopping centres will accelerate their points of difference to smaller centres, by focusing on attracting customers into their physical centre via offering tenants not found in other centres, such as luxury brands, entertainment users, larger users (like Ikea) and speciality food and beverage offerings. Smaller supermarket-based centres will cater for daily needs. All centres are likely to see more residential development within proximity of centres (such as former car park/above centres) which will facilitate the uptake of non-retail uses.

Whilst the impact of COVID 19, a greater number of people working from home, increased e-commerce spending and cyclical cost of living pressures have impacted the performance of large physical shopping centres, it seems they have weathered the changes successfully, albeit with a meaningful transformation to the mix of retailers.

 

For further information, please contact:

Rob Ellis, Director of the Data App. Mob: 0417 195 352 or email: rob@thedataapp.com

Damian Stone, Principal and Chief Problem Solver of Y Research. M: 0433 525 414 or email: damian.stone@yresearch.com.au

 

About PAR Group

Real Investment Analytics (RIA), The Data App (TDA) and Y Research are partners in PAR Group, an independent research collective offering a comprehensive range of property research and analytical services. The team is experienced in economics, property research, transactional and corporate strategy; all with extensive industry involvement in both the property and finance sectors. Visit: http://par.group/ for more information.