Opening in 2015, Mall of Scandinavia is hoping to draw in big brands and breathe life back into Sweden’s flagging retail market.
There is a word that Swedes believe sums up their approach to life: lagom, which loosely translates as ‘just the right amount’ or ‘in moderation’.
But judging by the plans for Stockholm mega-shopping centre Mall of Scandinavia, it is clear that lagom was far from the minds of developers Unibail-Rodamco.
The 1,076,000 sq ft, mall, which is scheduled to open in autumn 2015, comprises 250 shops and restaurants spread over seven floors, and 4,000 car parking spaces.
Located a seven-minute train ride from Stockholm city centre, it is designed to attract the third of Sweden’s population who live within a 90-minute drive.
Unibail hopes the mall will transform Stockholm’s retail offer. Christian Claesson, head of leasing at Unibail-Rodamco Nordic, hopes to promote Mall of Scandinavia – and Stockholm itself – to retailers around the world.
When it comes to the strength of the retail market, it’s an easy sell. On an annual basis, Swedish retail sales have not slipped into negative territory for 15 years. “What’s amazing is the growth in Sweden compared to other regions,” says Claesson. “It’s a really stable economy. Unemployment is extremely low in Stockholm.”
The population is also on the up, growing 0.93% to 9.64 million last year – the largest rate of growth in decades. Claesson argues that the growing population needs a mega mall to serve it.
Kjell Berggren, chairman of retail property advisors The Retail Headquarters, said: “Sweden is very strong right now due to the fact that many other countries are not,” he says. “Companies are looking where to find growth. Scandinavia has too few foreign retailers, particularly fashion.”
Yet despite its strong economic credentials, Sweden is not usually near the top of the priority list for British retailers expanding overseas. Claesson hopes Mall of Scandinavia will change that.
He says it is hard for retailers to find space for a large flagship store in downtown Stockholm because of the configuration and age of the buildings – brands including Apple have been looking for the right premises for years. But he says Mall of Scandinavia is “custom-made” for flagships. “With eight-metre shop fronts you can express yourself,” he says.
Mall of Scandinavia’s vital statistics
Opening: Autumn 2015
Size: 1,076,000 sq ft, 250 shops and restaurants, 4,000 parking spaces
Developer: Unibail-Rodamco’s total portfolio is E30.5bn (£24.3bn)
Retailers so far: Superdry, Michael Kors, Claire’s, Pandora, L’Occitane, Mango, Hugo Boss, Gant, Toys R Us and Intimissimi.
Although Claesson believes Mall of Scandinavia will stand on its own as a best-in-class shopping centre, he likens it to Westfield London. “It took the market to the next level,” he says. “That’s what Mall of Scandinavia will be.”
But, he adds, it will “bring a more intimate feel” and encourage dwell time and repeat visits by offering places to relax, including sofas and fireplaces. By contrast, he says, Westfield London is “white and shiny and grand”.
The mall’s design also pays close attention to the customer journey, with four zones named earth, wind, water and fire to help navigation. “We want people who want to come back all the time,” he says. “The main thing is the stores, then it’s about the feeling that makes you like being there.”
That thinking even applies to the car park, which has its own “amazing design”, says Claesson. “You don’t see that anywhere,” he adds.
There is a keen focus on store design and a desire to encourage retailers to build the best shops they can.
“We want to push the retailers. We operate like a retailer. We are never on our back waiting for our cash flows, it’s about inventing things, being number one. How can we be closer to the retailers?” he says.
The developer has its own innovation centre, URlab in Paris, to dream up new ways of doing things – not just in its own centres, but in retailers’ stores too.
“Can they operate without walls? How many times can they change product in stores? Can we have our staff telling retailers now it’s time to change this, or will they go mad?” says Claesson.
There is a focus on newness too; Unibail aims to refresh 10% of stores across its centres each year to ensure regular shoppers don’t get bored.
One brand he does not expect will bore shoppers is British fashion retailer Superdry, which plans to open an 8,611 sq ft shop in the mall. “Superdry has an image which is quite trendy. It puts a lot of money into stores and is really trying to express itself as a brand, which I think is truly important,” says Claesson.
Although he says many UK retailers have failed to make an impact in Sweden (see box), Claesson has his eye on a couple he would like to woo to Mall of Scandinavia. He says he is impressed by London’s department stores, particularly Selfridges and House of Fraser. “We don’t have anything like that,” he says.
There is also a strong focus on dining at the mall. Claesson says Swedes are only just beginning to dine out regularly, and Mall of Scandinavia is designed to take advantage of the trend. “It’s a changing culture,” he says.
Unibail expects to attract repeat visitors for breakfast and lunch from the 70,000 office workers based in the local area. And it hopes to appeal to a different night time crowd, who may be there to use the cinema and restaurants. It will also benefit from the new Friends Arena located next door.
Berggren believes that because of its out-of-town location, Mall of Scandinavia will have to work hard to keep attracting customers after the fanfare of the opening dies down.
But he says it will lift the city’s retail offer. “It will be a fantastic centre and will contribute to a renewal of the shopping centre world of Sweden,” he says.
Unibail will surely hope that thoughts of lagom are far from the minds of Swedish shoppers when Mall of Scandinavia opens next year.