Leisure: what’s next?

Article featured in Retail Destination Magazine:

Albeit an industry ground to a halt by lockdown restrictions, leisure has long been heralded as a saviour for retail destinations. Now more than ever with an increasing list of retail giants exiting the world of bricks and mortar and moving entirely online, shopping centres are going to have a lot of voids to fill in order to maintain that destination status, and many will be looking at leisure as a means to do so.

With the roll out of vaccines and the expected decline of Covid infection rates expected to be positively felt in the second half of 2021, it is likely that customers will want to enjoy days out and leisure experiences, the question is what will be waiting for them when leisure becomes possible again?

From an outlet perspective, Angus Fyfe, commercial operations director at Realm, says their schemes have always been leisure-orientated, delivering an “internet and recession-proof” attraction which is a day-out experience for visitors. “The destination type shoppers we attract are happy to extend their dwell-time and positively welcome more diversified offerings to extend the experience,” he explains.

Outlets have evolved from initially offering temporary rides, trampolines and climbing walls in the summer months to more immersive experiences including cinemas and vastly improved children’s play areas. The open-air design and relaxed environments in particular are likely to continue augmenting the popularity of outlet centres with leisure operators, both now and beyond the current situation. 

Fyfe believes that the rise to prominence of wellbeing and mindfulness will further trigger the ever-increasing popularity of sports and athleisure brands to fuel demand for fitness studios for yoga and exercise, alongside craft workshop spaces and family orientated uses such as escape rooms within our schemes.

“We also expect to see the continued popularity of outdoor and open-space activities, such as live music events and mini festivals,” he tells. Realm’s has adapted its traditional indoor leisure offerings of cinema, crazy golf and bowling to an outdoor environment with pop-up outdoor screens proving a popular addition during the pandemic.

“As these can be staged whilst maintaining all important social-distancing measures they are likely to remain as a fixture this summer at the schemes where they’ve been introduced,” Fyfe adds.

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