Making Retail Parks a Shopping Destination ‘Must’ Through Design & Wayfinding

11 July, 2023
Making Retail Parks a Shopping Destination ‘Must’ Through Design & Wayfinding

Closing-down sales, shuttered doorways, and rows of empty stores; it’s hard not to notice the damage that e-commerce and the cost of living crisis is inflicting on retail parks and shopping centres. As footfall slows, it’s more important than ever that these spaces leverage their competitive edge as one-stop-shop destinations that offer more than mere transactions. Smart wayfinding, fresh designs and high-tech signage can redefine a retail space, helping it to keep up with changing consumer habits – and become a destination in its own right.

Why Is Footfall Declining?

Retail parks and shopping centres have been battered by a series of blows in recent years; the rise of e-commerce, the Covid pandemic, and now the cost of living crisis.

The rise of online retailers has massively impacted consumer behaviour and shopping habits. With people now able to shop from the comfort of their sofa, cup of tea in hand, and their favourite TV show on in the background; they’re staying away from retail parks and shopping centres.

It’s not just sheer convenience that’s tempting people to stay at home; the wide range of products available online, plus the competitive, easily comparable pricing that online retailers offer has contributed to the seismic shift.

Bouncing back from the devastating impact of the pandemic, high-streets continue to show the biggest footfall improvement compared to last year. Yet, footfall at retail parks has suffered as customers, buoyed by the return of the office commute, switch back to malls and city-centre shopping.

To turn the tide on diminishing footfall, many shopping centres and retail parks are investing in the customer experience. They know that they need to give customers compelling reasons to get off the sofa and out into physical shopping spaces. That’s why wayfinding, design and innovative tech are now more important than ever.

Maintaining Your Competitive Edge with Smart Wayfinding

People head to a shopping centre or retail park, as opposed to hitting the high-street, because they offer a convenient shopping solution. Retail parks tend to be located just outside of the city centre with plenty of on-site parking, making it easier to avoid congested roads and expensive parking. In a shopping centre, there are a diverse range of stores within walking distance and all under one roof.

As a shopping centre or retail park, convenience is your competitive edge. So, design a sprawling space that’s frustrating to navigate or sends customers round in circles? The convenience factor wears off – and you might just find that your customers vow that, next time, they’ll shop from the comfort of their own home!

Clear, intuitive wayfinding is essential to help customers navigate expansive, multi-level spaces. Wayfinding signage should be consistent, uniform, and strategic to avoid confusion. It should highlight where key stores are, as well as facilities such as toilets, parking, and escalators. The trick is to help customers build a mental map of the layout that quickly becomes familiar, allowing them to navigate without stress – and keep coming back to what they know!

Shopping centres can also use innovative technology to make wayfinding simpler. Using digital maps and interactive signage can help customers quickly locate their favourite stores, and even give them clear directions on how to get there the most efficiently. There are also opportunities for shopping malls to incorporate mobile integration into their digital wayfinding or signage solutions.

Ultimately, this gives customers more control over the wayfinding experience. Making the shopping experience as pleasant and frustration-free as possible is the best way to entice people off the sofa and into physical stores.

Becoming a Destination with Aesthetic, Innovative Signage

Practicality aside, how else can retail parks and shopping centres move with the times – and ultimately avoid becoming obsolete? The answer lies in becoming destinations in their own right.

A strong brand identity and cohesive visual imagery throughout gives a shopping centre or retail park a sense of place. This can be created through striking static signage as well as dynamic digital displays. From video walls to changing displays, adding content that entertains, educates, and informs will augment the shopping experience and make customers more likely to buy.

Something that is increasingly sought after by consumers – and shopping online simply can’t replicate – is an experiential environment with a sense of community. By using interactive digital signage, shopping centres and retail parks can connect with their customers and help them connect with each other.

They can run competitions through social media channels and then use digital screens to display entries. Equally, they can provide opportunities for people to take their own photos or even virtually ‘try on’ the items they can find in stores.

The bottom line? Anything that makes the shopping experience more than a mere transaction will give shopping centres and retail parks a competitive boost against e-commerce and high-street stores.

Redefining Retail Spaces with Merson Group

As experts in traditional wayfinding and digital signage, Merson puts retail parks and shopping centres on the map as ultimate shopping destinations.

Over the course of the two-year redevelopment of Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield, we supplied all digital hardware, totems, and signage across the sprawling mall. As well as guiding shoppers around complex routes, we injected some personality and created a sense of place by giving each of the four districts within Meadowhall its own ‘family’ of signs.

When we worked with British Land – the largest commercial property owner in the UK – to modernise Teesside Retail Park, we knew it was important to pay homage to the local area. To create a sense of place, we designed, manufactured, and installed a suite of bespoke signage that gives a nod to the importance of the steel industry in Teesside and its surrounds.

More practically, we created an outdoor digital wayfinding solution that meant the retail park could move away from their reliance on paper maps. With excellent image quality, vandal-proof glass, and ambient light sensors to automatically adjust screen brightness, we installed cutting-edge digital solutions that revolutionised the pedestrian journey.

As you can see, we’re experts in turning retail parks and shopping centres into unique destinations with a fresh, modern feel. By redefining these spaces, we can help boost footfall and get customers excited to shop again!

Book a virtual reality demo to see how your retail park or shopping centre could look with the help of Merson at