The prospect of warmer weather soon heralds the start of the outdoor season—and opportunities for retail owners and operators to use outdoor spaces creatively and engagingly.
Spring has sprung, and with warmer weather almost upon us, getting out will soon be back in again. With nicer weather on the horizon, the potential for outdoor spaces to serve as dynamic, appealing and engaging retail space extensions is back on the table. For many brands and retail centers, the opportunity to expand their reach beyond indoor square footage is an integral part of their place-making toolkit.
It is up to retail owners and operators to find creative and engaging ways to utilize that space: to work both for and with tenants to make their outdoor spaces more attractive, inviting and functional. From outdoor dining options to special events and programming, the spaces between the buildings offer plenty of opportunities to elevate retail environments in impactful ways.
Art and Artistry
Public art is a proven winner. A little color goes a long way, from murals to graphic elements and paintings on the ground. Art can help add interest and give otherwise plain or utilitarian outdoor spaces new depth, color and animation. Unique art installations also create great Instagram moments and visual highlights that help retail centers stand out in a crowded social media landscape.
Mixing it Up
Outdoor spaces allow you to create memorable events and experiences. Mixing things up with a creative and varied calendar of interactive and experiential events can generate buzz, foster curiosity and keep people coming back for more.
Creating a sense of discovery by giving people reasons to move through or explore the outdoor space of a center is a surefire standout.
Have a Seat
A great way to elevate retail center outdoor space is to give new structure and dimensionality to the area with things like outdoor seating or planters. When done well, these temporary or semi-permanent features can function as an extension of indoor square footage and give guests places to relax, socialize, enjoy food and beverages, and so much more.
Even a modest patch of lawn or outdoor turf space can be an asset for any retail center.
Beyond the aesthetic boost, green space can host outdoor yoga sessions or other events for fitness or wellness tenants, small outdoor concerts and performances, movie screenings, and other community events.
Food for Thought
From farmer’s markets to food trucks, temporary dining halls to pop-up food stalls, outdoor spaces to eat, drink and be merry are popular ways to liven up many retail centers. Outdoor dining options help contribute to convivial atmospherics. Some centers even think outside the box by converting underutilized outdoor spaces to dining areas with modified shipping containers and picnic tables.
Come One, Come All
Many of the best outdoor retail spaces have features or programming specifically designed to appeal to families.
From fountains and fun activities to kids’ artwork and holiday events, family- and community-oriented centers often include child- and family-friendly spaces and events.
It’s also one of the most effective ways to boost dwell time and get people to come more often, stay longer, and do and spend more when they are there.
Not all outdoor art and activities are the right fit for every retail center. Apart from the logistical challenges, a farmer’s market at a convenience center with little more than a strip of retail and a parking lot is unlikely to work well. Savvy owners and operators have a good feel for what works in their centers and work hard to tailor outdoor programming and décor accordingly.
The Third Place
Our goal is always for our shopping centers to serve as that all-important third place: somewhere outside the home and work where you’d want to come and spend time. Making outdoor spaces memorable is crucial to realizing that goal.
To that end, retail center owners and operators must do much more than collect rent: they should engage their tenants and enhance their local neighborhoods. Ultimately, our tenants are our customers, and we owe it to them to do everything in our power to give theirs the best possible outdoor spaces to have great, memorable experiences.
The Buzz @ Broomfield Plaza
At Broomfield Plaza, the Easter Bunny thinks outside the basket.
In Colorado, a weeks-long “Easter Eggstravaganza” scavenger hunt for painted eggs is now one of the first signs of spring for many local families.
What began as an inspired response to COVID-19 restrictions has become a highly anticipated tradition, with colorful “hidden” eggs painted onto surfaces throughout the property at Broomfield Plaza and eager kids and families spending hours (and sometimes days) searching for all the eggs to cross off their list.
Egg hunters are eligible for tiered prizes based on the number of eggs they find, with a grand prize of $500 and additional gift card prizes from Broomfield Plaza merchants. The eggs, painted by a local artist, are also an environmentally friendly option relative to plastic or other traditional alternatives.
Response to the egg hunt has been overwhelmingly positive, with dozens of unsolicited emails from community members thanking the management team for holding such a fun and engaging event.
The data shows that this enthusiasm has had a material impact on Broomfield Plaza tenants, with visitor counts and the average length of stay increasing significantly during the event. Gift card redemption drives additional visits to shopping center merchants after the event.
The event has since expanded to other Colorado properties, including Fort Collins Marketplace and Crenshaw Imperial Plaza in California.