How to Do a Shopping Center Survey

When you manage or lease a retail shopping center it is important to understand the shopping patterns of customers from within the local area. By definition, the local area will be that the zone or precinct that produces 80% of the sales for your retailers; that area is likely to be local and within certain road boundaries or suburb precincts.

Within any period of 12 months there will be changes to seasonal shopping, customer demands, and shopper spending patterns. That is where the customer survey process is of high value. You can then match the property to the market and improve sales opportunities over all for the entire tenancy mix.

So the survey itself can help you make informed decisions when it comes to choice of retail tenant, solving vacancy problems, and improving customer interest within the property. Ideally you want the customer to come back to the property frequently for their purchasing needs; that’s how you build sales and strengthen the tenant market rental.

Surveys of this type should be undertaken at least once every six months within any moderate to large retail shopping center. The results of the survey can be merged into the business plan and tenant mix strategy for the property.

So here are some essential factors to understand when it comes to undertaking the survey and extracting valuable information from it:

  1. In most towns and cities there will be seasonal retail shopping patterns that are impacted by tourism, climate, local celebrations, and community demographics. If you undertake the customer survey at the wrong time and within the timing of these local issues, the results that you achieve from the survey are likely to be biased and corrupted. The best time to undertake a survey of retail customers and shopping center performance is during an ordinary business cycle. Choose your timing carefully. Any peaks in seasonal sales can then be regarded as a bonus to ordinary levels of customer interest and purchasing patterns.
  2. It is best practice with any retail shopper surveys to use a professional marketing firm that is experienced with retail properties of the type and location similar to yours. They can bring valuable experience to the retail survey process and improve the results that you achieve.
  3. What stores are your customers visiting? Some stores and retail categories will be more popular than others. When you understand the sales peaks and customer preferences within the tenancy mix, you can place tenants more successfully and improve the clustering process. That then has a direct impact on future sales and potentially market rental. It also helps protect the tenancy mix from the pressures of an unsuccessful business.
  4. How often are people coming to your shopping center? In a convenience based shopping center the number of visits per week can be quite high. In comparison, the larger regional retail shopping Centre will be visited less frequently, however the time that the customer spends within the property will be lengthy and the amount of money spent will be higher per visit. These are the averages that you need to understand.
  5. There are differences in shopping patterns when it comes to the typical male shopper verses the female shopper. There are also differences in purchasing patterns between youth, young families, and middle aged and older shoppers. Shoppers will come to the retail property for different reasons and on different days of the week. You need to understand those reasons and the timing process. You will find that retail shopping activities generally increase towards the end of any business week. They can also be influenced by social security payment days. This then requires you to analyze the local demographics when it comes to the typical shopper and the local community.
  6. It is a valuable process to advise the tenants within the property of the survey before it starts and the reason for it. They can then relate to the importance of the survey when it comes to optimizing the tenancy mix, improving sales, and choosing the correct levels of marketing for the property.

To work through these issues, it is necessary to establish a list of focused questions to be used by the people undertaking the survey. Take the time to get the questions correctly balanced to your property, the location, and the customers. In that way you will get some valuable information from the retail property survey.

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