All this talk about online and mobile shopping might make you think traditional malls are becoming obsolete.
Not so fast, says Marianne Bickle, director of the Center for Retailing at the University of South Carolina. Shopping malls are more vital than ever, as people look for new ways to stay connected.
Bickle's comments stem from a survey she developed for Glimcher Realty Trust on mall shopping trends. Glimcher owns and manages 29 retail centers nationwide, including Tampa's WestShore Plaza.
What she concluded from the findings released Monday is that even in the digital age, people still like to shop in a mall. They crave the social aspect of it and the convenience of touching an item and buying it on the spot, without any shipping time. Most often, they combine the shopping with a meal or drink with someone else.
"They want a multidimensional experience,'' Bickle said. "When they shop they use all of their senses. They are smelling the baked goods and the candles. They want a tactile experience.''
More good news for brick-and-mortar retailers is that consumers typically buy more at a mall store than they would through a website, regardless of how pretty it looks on a screen. They might go into a shop for something specific but often see other things to add to their basket.
Other survey findings showed that while shoppers are tech-savvy and enjoy social media, only 19 percent prefer to shop online exclusively and only 14 percent "showroom" on a regular basis — the practice of looking at an item in a store, then buying it for cheaper online.
"Showrooming is not a bad word,'' Bickle said. "We can turn showroomers into shoppers and shoppers into buyers. But we must greet showroomers, talk to them and bring back the customer experience through good customer service, which requires well-trained sales associates.''
Also interesting was this tidbit: More than half of people surveyed said they would be more likely to go to a mall if it had more things to do, like yoga classes and cooking demonstrations.
The survey of 3,344 adults was conducted online by C&T Marketing Group in April.
I've always wondered why Tampa Bay has so many steakhouses. Here's a reason:
Seventy three percent of Tampa Bay residents want to eat beef daily, compared with only 53 percent nationwide, according to a survey by the Florida Beef Council and Beef Checkoff trade group. Yes, we like our T-bone steaks and burgers, as evidenced by all the gourmet burger joints popping up in strip centers.
The survey goes on to say that 76 percent of locals feel good about eating beef, up from 58 percent in previous surveys. That's also up 5 percent from the national average.
"People are more comfortable with beef and like to eat beef more than ever,'' said Ashley Hughes, director of beef marketing and promotion for the beef council, a division of the Florida Cattlemen's Association.
And here's what could explain why we like to eat out so much, whether it be at Five Guys, Burger 21, Outback or mack daddy Bern's: Only about three-quarters of Tampa Bay residents said they know how to cook beef well, compared to the national average of 82 percent.
The survey released last week was conducted in February and surveyed nearly 15,000 people nationwide.
The masses headed to the beach this Memorial Day weekend might take a break from the sun and sand at the first Wearable Art Show & Sale near Madeira Beach. About 30 vendors will sell clothing, jewelry and accessories handcrafted with recycled items. Look for purses made from plastic grocery bags and corsets made from soda can tabs. The sale runs from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at 15004 Madeira Way, across the street from the beach near Gulf Boulevard and 150th Avenue. Admission is free. Call (727) 322-5217 or go to SIKPromotions.com.
Susan Thurston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3110.