As part of our coverage leading up to ICSC Western Conference & Deal Making event, Howard Wong, Director of Retail Leasing at Passco Companies, gives us his insider perspective for this edition of Counter Culture.

It’s no secret that the traditional mall – the proverbial retail king for the past 30 years – is getting a makeover.

Gone are the days where the only dining option is the Food Court and the only gathering places were indoors. Today’s consumers want an experience and a sense of community.

To deliver this, many in the retail industry have discovered a major key to success: harness the Great Outdoors.

Mall owners and operators are beginning to understand that outdoor spaces deliver tremendous value when it comes to driving traffic and increasing length of stay. For this reason, many once-traditional indoor malls are being redeveloped and revitalized in order to add outdoor dining and socialization hubs where consumers can relax and spend time.

At Passco Companies, we recognize this insight and are in the process of creating new outdoor spaces at one of our traditional indoor mall properties, Hanford Mall in Hanford, California. Our team has brought in strategic, entertainment-focused dining retailers, and we’ve created outdoor spaces for each eatery that will deliver a fresh vibe to local shoppers. This strategy is only a portion of a continuous evolution that we plan to employ for years to come.

Other great examples of the more traditional indoor malls in the Western region that are adding outdoor spaces include Los Cerritos Center Mall and The Village at Westfield Topanga.

This evolution is reflective of another major trend impacting the retail industry today. In the past, mall owners typically planned a redevelopment every few decades. This timing simply won’t cut it in today’s retail landscape. Instead, mall owners and operators are taking a page from retailers’ books and working consistently to reinvent themselves and keep up with the trends.

An excellent example of this in the Western region is the Victoria Gardens shopping mall in Rancho Cucamonga, California. A hugely successful outdoor center, Victoria Gardens is only 10 years old and already delivers the outdoor experience that people crave. That said, this mall has chosen not to rest on its laurels. In fact, the center has already launched a redevelopment incorporating additional outdoor dining areas, parklets and community focused gathering areas to appeal to today’s Millennial consumers. By continuously evolving the mall, Victoria Gardens will continue to capture the attention of their market share, and attract new generations of shoppers.

The bottom line is that mall owners simply cannot become complacent. Instead, these professionals must be ready to adapt to market changes quickly and continuously. Today, this means tapping into the great outdoors in order to deliver the spaces that consumers are demanding. And tomorrow, it might mean something entirely different. But that’s what makes retail exciting, right?