UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The transformation of the regional shopping centre : an examination of six case studies in Vancouver B.C. Bertelsen, Siri


Shopping centres have dominated retailing in North America since the 1950's. But today, many shopping centres are facing serious problems. The future, which once looked unlimited and bright, now seems problematic. It is this transformation on which this thesis will focus. This thesis examines the historical trends behind the regional shopping centre industry. It also deals with the significance of regional shopping centres in the larger body of academic work. Regional shopping centres can be seen as products of modern society's mass production and consumption system. Their design and geographic allocation in the urban landscape is a product of both architects' and urban planners' efforts to control and regulate the modern landscape. Being a product of modernism, regional shopping centres must now meet the challenge of surviving in the post-modern era. This thesis continues with examining the development of the regional shopping centre industry in Canada. The first part of this development (1960-1980) was characterized by growth then stability. However, in the 1990's, significant numbers of centres have experienced considerable turbulence. The number of tenants, the concentration and combination of different retail businesses, as well as the annual vacancy rate are all parameters used to illustrate this. The external and internal conditions that are affecting these contemporary changes are also described, along with the strategies that are being used by the owners of regional shopping centres to meet the changes. For example, the movement away from having only goods tenants, to centres with tenants that also provide services, such as health care and libraries. The downgrading of centres to community-oriented centres, and the increase of non-retail activities are other strategies currently being used to adapt to the new conditions. This thesis includes case studies of six different regional shopping centres in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. The six centres provide the study with valuable information about the industry's history and current condition in the general retail sector. Information was collected through shopping centre surveys, together with various retail studies and trade articles from magazines, newspapers and periodicals. The study was enhanced with interviews of private sector mall managers, owners and developers, as well as the retailers in and architects of various shopping centres. The study shows that the regional shopping centre industry, to a large extent, continues to use the same development and management strategies as in the past (1960's and 1970's). The use of a universal strategy has tended to produce similar results in a centre's tenant mix, geographical location and architectural design. The result is that regional shopping centres today suffer from being undifferentiated and too similar with other competitive regional shopping centres. They also struggle with the same problems in terms of new retail competition and changing consumer demand. Regional shopping centres are facing a variety of new challenges, including new retailing concepts, cross-border shopping and declining consumer spending. There are several strategies that are being used to deal with these changes. The main goal for regional shopping centres is to find a strategy that distinguishes each from the homogenous image that prevails today. The future of the regional shopping centre industry depends on its ability to adapt to changing consumer spending patterns in a number of ways. First, there is likely to be a return of regional shopping centres which cater to the local community. This will be achieved by changing the centre's tenant mix. The level and quality of service will also be adjusted to meet specific community requirements. Secondly, regional shopping centres will incorporate more non-retail facilities. Non-competitive tenants are being acquired to fill in space and give the centres a more diverse character. Finally, regional shopping centres will include leisure and recreational activities, including amusement and entertainment facilities. Ultimately, only those centres that are able to find a specific market niche will survive in the long term. This is in sharp contrast to the old practice of being everything for everyone.

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