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Shopping malls harness family fun to fight off digital invaders

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Family attractions like Legoland are transforming Australian shopping malls into entertainment precincts as property owners grapple with the impact of online shopping and brace for the arrival of digital giant Amazon.

Three hundred thousand shoppers are expected to check out Australia’s first Legoland at Chadstone Shopping Centre in the next year, more than 800 a day, including interstate and international tourists.

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Lego miniature Melbourne opens at Chadstone

A new Lego Discovery Centre has opened in Melbourne, the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

Featuring more than 2 million individual Lego bricks, the centre includes a 4D cinema, two interactive, carnival-style rides and several themed play areas.

Speaking at the launch of the $12 million playground, the centre’s general manager Fiona MacKenzie said close to one quarter of the shopping mall’s retailers were operating in the entertainment space, including food and beverage.

Ms MacKenzie said attractions like Legoland were essential to retail centres and a vital element of their evolution into more than just retail hubs.

Since December six high-profile Australian fashion labels have collapsed as the apparel sector battles weak wages growth, online sales and the influence of global fashion giants like Uniqlo and H&M.

Ms MacKenzie said it was difficult to be just a shopping centre at the moment without offering that additional “social experience”.

“It’s about delivering consumer experiences, which are something online shopping cannot replicate,” Ms MacKenzie said.

Shopping centres are reinventing themselves as entertainment hubs to attract new customers and offset the impact of ... Shopping centres are reinventing themselves as entertainment hubs to attract new customers and offset the impact of online sales. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Retail centres around the world are chasing “experiences” that bring new shoppers to malls and give them a reason to stay and spend more, particularly as mobile devices and online research smashes window shopping.

“One of the things Lego does is promotes parents and children interacting as a family … it allows people to come, they stay longer so it’s about dwell time, we want people to come and spend a day at Chadstone and you can do that now.”

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Legoland lands in Melbourne

Chadstone already runs a shuttle bus which makes up to 10 trips a day from Federation Square in the CBD. There are plans to expand this with the addition of a new service from Southern Cross station and a third from another city location.

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