Cities develop through inclusion and discussion
Today’s retail challenges in Finland culminate in the behaviour shaped by people’s fears and worries in one way or another. At the same time that we are keeping safe distances, the commercial entities connecting business premises and services at the transport hubs have shown their value in everyday life.
The shopping mall is a contemporary market, a place with meetings and happenings; time is also spent there on things other than just shopping.
When people don't want to spend more time on commuting or shopping than they have to, an easily accessible office, lunch place and grocery store are the main factors when choosing a place to shop.
On the other hand, as remote work has increased and meetings have become virtual, there might be more time to do everyday routines than before, saving at least the commuting time. Many Finns have found national parks, forests and the city's outdoor areas. What will become of us in November? Will this continue another year... or two perhaps? Where will we spend time when it’s sleeting outside?
In exceptional times, we have become aware of the need for people to meet each other, have experiences and go to events that have been sorely missed not only by the service providers but also by visitors. In Finland, a large number of people live in cities and they are thirsty for culture, good food and meeting friends. The longing for ‘getting back to civilisation’ is both an inspiring and a silenced need, although there is a justified fear associated with encounters. Does the rolling stone begin to gather moss?
The shopping mall is a contemporary market, a place with meetings and happenings; time is also spent there on things other than just shopping, it is today’s ‘church in the middle of the village’. I believe that a shared space responds to a person’s human need to connect with others and offers the opportunity for a sense of sociality and togetherness. At the same time, there are perhaps more fears for one's own safety and health than ever in post-war Finland.
The shopping mall must be comfortable so that people can cosily escape the sleet, but now the emphasis is on the health and safety of the environment. New levels of requirements create new operating models.
Responsible malls such as the Mall of Tripla have obtained a COVID-19 compliance certification for their anti-virus measures. The certification is proof that the shopping mall follows the best international procedures in the industry and that the mall has taken all measures available to ensure the safety of visitors. This, of course, does not remove safety distances and the importance of moving around only when you are healthy, but hopefully, it alleviates some of the fears of consumers.
The walls do not make a shopping mall; it is all about the responsible operators and consumers. And virtual encounters and home-delivered meals are no substitute for meeting friends for good food and drinks.
At its best, the shopping mall meets the need for encounters even in exceptional times. In the end, it is all about people and how we act in these hard times. Let’s follow the situation, follow the instructions and stay safe, together and by supporting each other!