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Public Engagement in Experiential Futures



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Partnership with institutions or government (i.e. libraries, recreation facilities, community centres, etc.) as a means of attracting reliable and long term anchor tenants that drive visitation to other retailers, or directly serve the surrounding community. Examples include suburban malls integrating civic services like a public library, a municipal services, and immigration services.

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Consumer surveys are showing a general trend towards consumers placing more importance on experiences than possessions, which is particularly evident amongst the millennial demographic. In particular, social media presence and a “fear of missing out” are drivers for millennials’ preference towards experiential purchases over material possessions. This trend has caused retailers such as Macy’s to adopt experience-based models to drive consumer purchases, such as incorporating mini-concerts, yoga classes, and cafes into the retail environment. Psychology studies reinforce this trend to show that purchasing experiences tend to be more rewarding, and that there is a correlation with increased happiness.

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In the wake of anchor big-box stores leaving shopping malls comes the emergence of a new type of attractor: anchor communities. As some shopping malls explore the different ways they can repurpose themselves beyond retail, they are beginning to attract the communities that come with those new spaces. Such include the communities that belong to churches, sports clubs, cultural networks and the creative arts.

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Improvements to the customer experience, increased retail options, and faster shipping has made online shopping more appealing. Customers are now buying more things from the comfort of their homes than in person at brick and mortar stores. Grocery shopping may be the last holdout. At the moment, the majority of people still want to push a cart down the aisle, choosing items for their family, but that is changing as well.

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Not only do recent immigrants represent a new and consistently growing consumer base, they are also arriving in better financial positions than previous generations, reflecting the current skew in Canada’s immigration policy toward admitting skilled professionals. Visible minority ethnic groups far outpaced the average non-visible-minority resident in consumer spending growth from 2008 to 2013.

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Developers and planners are rethinking the mall concept, integrating different property types in hopes of achieving higher occupancy rates and higher rents. Office tenants and residents enjoy the convenience of having multiple retail and dining options nearby, while retailers and restaurants like the increased foot traffic from having both workers and residents on site. Malls have been repurposed as social service centres, professional offices, health care centres, churches, nature enclaves and as public markets.

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Because of increased economic pressures and a favorable social lifestyle shift towards minimalism, millennials are buying less things. Technology and the mindset of the sharing economy (AirBnB, Uber, Spotify etc.) are encouraging people think differently about what it means to “own” something. Because of this, the balance between supply and demand has been altered, and the value has moved to more experiential purchases.

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Diversity is becoming a broader concept beyond one’s ethnic background. When Canada describes itself as “diverse”, we often think of one’s ethnic background. However, we are a leader in other diversity issues, such as gay and transgender rights. Now, new forms of diversity are being accepted, such as neurodiversity and physical abilities, which paints a richer picture of what diversity in Canada looks like. It’s not just about accepting different ethnicities, but different ways of thinking and being.

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The rate at which Canada’s population is aging is accelerating with significant economic, social and political implications. The Canadian population is aging at a rapid rate with projections showing that the total and proportion of Canadians 65+ and 80+ will increase significantly in the near future. The population growth rate for those 64 and over is increasing around four times faster than the population at large, and the population of people 65 and older is now larger than the number of children under 15. The number of “community-dwelling” seniors is also rapidly increasing.

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61% of peak millennial survey respondents across Canada would prefer to buy a detached home, only 36% believe that they will realistically be able to find a property within this market segment (2017 national survey). Consequently, many within this age range have adjusted their expectations and have become increasingly open to other property types, provided that they are move-in ready. Over half of those surveyed would look to the suburbs when purchasing a property, especially when it comes time to raise a family, as the supply of new developments and spacious residences are more abundant in these areas. In addition, 61% stated that they would be willing to move to another city or suburb where property is more affordable.

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