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Eyesore Empty Stores in Malls Repurposed Into Arcades & Hairstyling Rooms

To ensure shoppers are not put off by empty storefronts, shopping centres are repurposing vacant spaces as arcades or hairstyling rooms for shoppers.

Commercial real estate services firm JLL recorded data highlighting Sydney’s median retail vacancy rate was 6.1% at the start of 2023, contrasting with 2.6% at the end of 2019 showing the market has still not rebounded from the pandemic.

In the city centre, the number jumps higher with a vacancy rate of 14.3% from the beginning of 2023, an increase from 13.4% in mid-2022. One of the highest vacancy rates since JLL began registering its reporting back in 1993.

Located at the Greenwood Plaza with heavy foot traffic, have branded two unused shopfronts as “self-style studios”, which feature free access to premium hair tools, like Dyson Airwraps and GHD straighteners.  

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, the owner Mirvac did not give its retail property portfolio’s vacancy figures but they did provide a comment.

“CBD retail has been more challenging during and after the pandemic, as these centres are focused on commuters and office workers,” stated Kelly Miller, Mirvac’s general manager of retail.

“We have seen a steady improvement in CBD retail as workers continue to return to the office. In the last two weeks, [Greenwood] has opened four new food retailers in response to the increasing foot traffic.”

Over at the Marrickville Metro, the shopping mall has also needed to modify the way they manage open spaces and have curated three pop-up stores in vacant units inclusive of a plush toy store, games arcade, and a homewares retailer.

Chris Barnett, head of retail and mixed-use at GPT Group, which supervises Marrickville Metro, commented: “Spaces with current leasing opportunities are being activated while we seek the right occupant to complement the retail mix.”

According to Professor Gary Mortimer, a marketing and consumer trends researcher at the Queensland University of Technology, he said that shopping centres have had to get creative. Although maybe not financially viable long-term, he has noted centres using the spaces as window displays for other tenants, or even occupied with props for an “Instagram stage” for photos opportunities.

“Ultimately, shopping centres want to create entertaining atmospheres, excitement, and novelty, and it’s that excitement and novelty that draws customers to the centre,” he said, adding that there was “nothing less appealing than boarded-up stores”.