A Comprehensive Guide to Retail Shopping Center Operations

shopping center mall escalator

The operations behind a retail shopping center are a bit like that of a large cruise ship or liner with thousands of people on board as they move in and around the zones of the vessel.  People want to feel comfortable and safe as they enjoy the ‘journey’. (NB – you can get our Retail Shopping Center Tips in ‘Snapshot’ right here)

Understand the retail facts and pressures of your shopping center.  There are many things to track and keep running daily in an ongoing way; the target is to ensure that the customer experience is encouraged and enhanced always.

Retail Functionality

When something doesn’t work in a shopping center, then it has the potential to impact the all-important retail ‘spend’, and ultimately the interest of the customer in returning to the property.  Attracting the customers to a retail property will always be a part of the marketing focus; getting them to come back to the property in a regular way will also be critical to the sales outcomes.

A successful shopping center is one that encourages and attracts customers in a permanent way, and there will be a plan or strategy to do that in an ongoing way.  The ‘rule’ is easy to understand and should not be complicated by over analysis or ‘clouded vision’.  Attract the customers and keep them coming back.  When that strategy is working, you can then focus on your retailers for improving merchandise offering and trade.

Management Team Support

There will usually be a significant team of people behind the scenes monitoring and tuning the operational factors of the retail property. Those people will be part of the shopping center management team.  Typically, those people will include:

  • Engineering Manager
  • Maintenance Manager
  • Tenant Services Manager
  • Marketing Manager
  • Shopping Center Manager
  • Accounts Administration Person
  • Center Management Receptionist
  • Concierge Desk Staff
  • Security Team and Patrols Team
  • Cleaning and Presentation Team

These people all have a big interest in making the shopping center a positive and practical place for retailers and customers.  They are ‘specialists’ in their segments of the property performance.  They will have budgets, response systems, and targets to work to.  They will have roles to play and key performance indicators to address in the retail business plan for the property.

So, there will be a business plan for any moderate to large retail property, given that the complexities of the retail property with all its functions can be tracked, shaped, and improved over time.

Operational Systems for Retail

Given the size and complexity of the retail team mentioned earlier, here are some of the main operational factors for the team to track and measure daily in any large retail property:

  1. Cleaning of common areas
  2. The services and amenities of a property
  3. Presentation of shop fronts and shop interiors
  4. Signage appearance across all common areas and on shop fronts
  5. Branding consistency inside and around the retail property
  6. Common areas for practicality and use
  7. Transport drop off points
  8. Car park use and safety
  9. Entry and exit points in and around the property
  10. The ‘ant track’ where customers tend to move in and through the property
  11. Air conditioning comfort levels in the property
  12. Lighting in the common areas
  13. Vacant areas and associated vacant shop presentations
  14. Fire detection systems and emergency response systems
  15. Crisis management plan
  16. Rubbish disposal and waste control
  17. Day to day management and maintenance in customer and tenant zones, etc

So, the list can go on with many more special issues aligned to retail property layout, size and location.  These ‘zones’ and ‘disciplines’ within a retail property will have rules and operational guidelines to work to; that is exactly why a retail shopping center requires an ‘operational manual’.

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