Brick and mortar shops have been well aware of the competition posed by online retailers for quite some time now, and their solutions to the convenience problems have ranged from the brilliant to the improbable.

But now, global mall developer Westfield Corporation may have come up with a powerful way to take advantage of the relationship between a potential customer’s home and the proximity of their neighborhood. They have begun building apartment complexes of their own near malls they operate

 This foray into residential real estate is a first for Westfield, according to CEO Peter Lowy who stated that although the company is taking on residential development projects, it will only do so at its mall assets. This is likely in order to create a symbiotic relationship between the two.

Other Examples

Supermarket delivery businesses are as old as the Internet itself. Few have been successful, and the reasons have been just as elusive as the profits that “should have been.” Neighborhood grocery delivery makes perfect sense on paper, but customers don’t participate in the numbers businesses expect.

The truth is, supermarket shopping is just as frequently a chance to leave the house as it is a chance to replace a loaf of bread. People like to go to the store provided it is as convenient as a trip to the supermarket.

The Connection

So, a developer of apartment homes might say, what if we put the mall right next to your house? Would that give shopping for clothes, furniture and books the same appeal as shopping for groceries? If so, it might put brick and mortar retailers back in the game with their highly competitive counterparts on the Internet and end up offering something the web can’t duplicate.

This, combined with the proximity of a neighborhood venue, can become a viable alternative to waiting for products to be shipped from an online retailer, provided the benefits are clearly communicated.

The Key

What the mall may be missing when compared with the grocery store and the pharmacy is the concept of a weekly ritual. Families visit the supermarket regularly. They also go to home improvement stores, the bank and the gas station on a regular basis. What the malls will have to do is make it more likely for customers to feel the need to visit their shops on some kind of regular schedule. Then the higher-end retailers will seem more like neighborhood residents and less like vacation attractions.

Planned communities are far from a new idea, but never before have they been the potential equalizer in the competition with hyper-efficient online retailers. Now, they could be the game-changer.