From the source: Amanda Grocock, Rundle Mall

Amanda GrocockBIO: Amanda Grocock, general manager

Amanda Grocock is the youngest ever person appointed to the position of general manager at Rundle Mall Management Authority, and the custodian of the economic and social heart of Adelaide. Her skills include exceptional precinct and stakeholder management, political savvy, strategic planning, marketing and event management born of customer insights.

COMPANY PROFILE: Rundle Mall

The Rundle Mall Precinct is the heart of South Australian retail and home to more than 1,000 businesses and 15 shopping centres boasting the freshest fashion, beauty, lifestyle and food. Stretching over 520 metres, and one of the busiest malls in Australia with 700 retailers, the mall attracts more than 24 million visitations per year, making it the most visited place in South Australia.

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IRW: Rundle Mall is quite dear to many Adelaideans, especially the infamous silver Mall’s Balls. How would you describe the shopping precinct and how has it changed over time?

AG: Adelaideans are very parochial. We’re in a very privileged position, but in terms of the history, it was the first pedestrianised shopping precinct in Australia 42 years ago. We had a birthday celebration a couple of years back and really since then, and because of that pedestrianisation and being the centre of Adelaide, it became an important economic, cultural and community hub.

It continues to this day, which is why South Australians are so parochial about the mall and the balls – they’re immortalised. It’s an important meeting place and anyone who grows up in Adelaide has a memory of meeting their friends at the balls – going to the movies when the cinemas were in the mall itself, or having their first job somewhere in the mall.

People have a long-term connection with the mall and their experiences changes as they grow, so there’s the young person who’s more socially-oriented, then they get their first job or work in the CBD, then it becomes a transactional and lunchtime thing, then the scale of the precinct means people do shopping for big-ticket items like engagement rings or Christmas shopping. It’s very unique for Adelaide.

The Rundle Mall management authority is entirely funded by stakeholders that fall within the precinct boundary, south side of North Terrace to the north side of Grenville Street, then the east side of King William Street to the west of Pulteney Street. It’s four to six city blocks that we might manage, they’re 145 different property owners, 15 shopping centres, 1,000 businesses and 5,000 people who work within the precinct each work day.

What we do as an authority is represent the precinct as a whole, we’re not the landlord like other shopping centre environments. We work with 450 different landlords and take an overarching precinct-view. The actual street runs from King William to Pulteney and is 528m long, the longest pedestrian mall in the southern hemisphere, possibly the world.

IRW: Last year was particularly successful for Rundle Mall, especially during Christmas. What do you think was behind the increased foot traffic?

AG: We continue to position Rundle Mall as the premiere shopping destination in SA and last year proved that – there’s no doubt that the scale of the precinct attracts the efficient shopper. We have the benefit of having all these brands in one spot. We have a strong luxury category that outperformed during Christmas and as an authority, we are committed to investing in a sense of wonder with large scale decorations, real pine Christmas trees so you get the smell and the sound of carols.

In 2017, we created and staged an event called Voices of Christmas, the first of its kind nationally. It was a combination of live and digitally recorded choral voices singing an arrangement of carols and all the performers were throughout SA. It was a community engagement piece, but I think Christmas can be a difficult time for a lot of people, and as the heart of Adelaide, we have a social responsibility to include them. So that campaign was about giving visitors something they could be involved in and connected to with other South Australians.

IRW: What do you think is behind the low 2.8 per cent vacancy rates at Rundle Mall at the moment?

AG: Yes, it’s very cool. When H&M was announced to come to SA to open their first store here, the Australian and New Zealand manager said the only option they looked at was Rundle Mall, because that’s where you have to be – it’s what we strive for and I think it’s a nice summary of why retailers come here.

There’s the social connection to the city and we’re geographically very connected to the cultural boulevard on North Terrace. Visitors to the city and 85 per cent of tourists come to the mall, and that connection goes to the gallery and museum, the east end with bars and restaurants and west end with nightlife and the convention and hotels  – all those things make prospective retailers interested in the space. It’s also the most visited place in SA, just in terms of visitation. Retailers are interested in who’s passing by their doors – this is the largest opportunity to capture customer foot traffic.

IRW: Mad March is known to be a crazy time in Adelaide, given the Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival, Womadelaide and Clipsal are all on. What does Rundle Mall do to get in the spirit and how does it engage its customers during that period?

AG: We take the mall’s connection to the city very seriously, although there are boundaries within which we manage. From the customer point of view, they don’t know where those boundaries are – we want to make sure we’re connected to the wider city.

We’re involved in all major events and we like to bring elements of those into the mall itself. During the Fringe Festival, we host a Fringe stage, where performers can do snippets of their show so they can promote themselves. Then we give customers the chance to win tickets to the festival by purchasing in-store.

With the Adelaide Festival, we had pop-up events and a pop-up writers’ week event, where people could engage with writers, interviews and purchase books in our stores. And during the Adelaide 500 this year, we had drivers and cars come into the space so people could get up close and personal with them.

It’s an incredibly busy time – the mall was packed during the festival period, but it’s not always been notoriously good for retail, particularly because discretionary spending means people choose to spend money on other things that aren’t necessarily fashion. But we take that opportunity as a brand positioning, all these people are in the city to experience the event, so let’s position our events next to those brands so we can participate. And when people want to buy their next purchase, Rundle Mall is what they’ll think of. Anything that brings more people is successful to us.

IRW: Rundle Mall has also hosted several successful events in the past year. Tell me about them and the strategy behind them.

AG: Our strategic plan is built around four areas – information, visitor experience, advocacy and brand. Events like Vogue Festival, which we did last year, really was created out of those areas of focus. The insights we gain from customer research inform the events we try to create. Advocating the needs of our retailers and customers results in what we think is exceptional execution in the mall and partnering with the likes of Vogue really strengthened our brand in the market and gave the event some credibility.

The Vogue Festival was born out of a need to have a retail-focused event as part of Adelaide Fashion Festival. It was bespoke to SA – it’s not Vogue’s Fashion Night Out – it’s something we specially created for SA and it’s a two-day event, which is unusual for Vogue. That really was about being able to draw the interest that comes around fashion festival into the retail heart of the city and rewarding the customer with free activations.

Everything we do in the mall is free for people to engage with. Retail sales aren’t the primary purpose but the festival created a fabulous opportunity for retailers to capitalise on that. We were lucky to launch Vogue Festival with the editor-in-chief Edwina McCann and the face of Myer, Jen Hawkins, which was incredible. The festival showcased over 150 brands and more than 230,000 customers came through the precinct during the two days, which generated over $45 million in retail sales – incredible results.

For us, it was about making sure we execute to a standard that represented the Rundle Mall and Vogue brands, but making sure SA felt special. There are times when things happen around Australia and South Australians feel sad about it, so we wanted to make sure it was excellently executed so everyone could be proud of what SA can achieve.

Urban Pantry and Cellar Door was our partnership with Tasting Australia and for me, that’s the moment in the year where we talk about food and really highlight those brands that are in here 365 days of the year. We have iconic brands like Charlesworth and Haigh’s, and great small producers like Just Bliss, which makes chocolates in their store, as well as and fabulous food and beverage businesses dotted all around the precinct. The Urban Pantry showcases those brands, but we bring in producers from around SA to be showcased, as well.

We actually build an urban pantry where those products can be tasted and bought, and we have a cellar door element, where local wine producers can come in and people can taste and buy different wines, which is part of our tourism push. We understand visitation to SA is good for everyone and if we grow the pie, everyone gets a bigger slice, so it’s about showcasing what sits outside the city as much as what sits within it.

IRW: Tell me about the Rundle Plaza redevelopment and what it involves. What are some of the major changes to be made?

AG: We’re super happy and excited to be supporting the Weinert Group and proud of their investment in Rundle Mall. It shows that private ownership and investment can really change the precinct and elevate shopping, dining socialising to a whole new level.

The redevelopment will span across four lower levels of the nine-storey building – there will be a tech hub on the lower ground, retail and fashion on ground, a new dining precinct on level one and a health and wellbeing precinct on level two.

The terrace dining precinct will feature a double height glass atrium and art deco styled, with views over Rundle Mall and featuring higher quality food and beverage retailers. It’s planned for completion by the second-half of this year.

The group’s $40 million investment in the building means we can welcome H&M, which is a big coup for us and something we know is absolutely in the interests of our customer. We’ve got research that tells us our core demographic is travelling to Melbourne and Sydney for that brand, so to have them here means we can service those customers that already exist.

IRW: How would you describe the current shopping centre landscape in South Australia and what are some of the major challenges?

AG: There have been a lot of major shopping centres in SA that have recently announced significant investment in development, which indicates how competitive the landscape is here.

But in regards to the challenges facing the whole industry rather than specific centres. SA needs population growth. Geographically, we are a long thin city, bound by the sea on one side and hills on the other, so the distance between two centres isn’t insurmountable for customers. Customers have a lot of choice in SA, so to sustain that number and type of centres, we need to hold people in SA and attract more people to the city wherever that’s possible.

The other challenge is the impact of online, but I’m a strong believer that bricks-and-mortar will always have an important place in the social fabric in any one place. But there is little doubt that retailers and owners need to think differently about the shopping experience because of the impact of online. Where customers can transact with commodities at the click of  a finger, what makes them connect with the real world is that connection to community and service, so we need to do better at putting the customer first in order to make sure they’re getting what they need out of bricks-and-mortar.

IRW: Given the challenges that fashion retail and department stores have had (both of which are traditionally anchors for shopping centres), how has that affected Rundle Mall and what has the centre been doing to manage those issues?

AG: It’s a tricky one. Rundle Mall is home to over 140 different stores and department stores, so the impact on that category is important to the precinct as a whole. Because of the scale of the precinct, over 1000 businesses in wellness, health and luxury are really thriving, so we’re focused on pushing things that are unique to the precinct – brands you can only get here. If we drive visitation on those elements, then cross-pollination to other businesses increases. It’s all about the customer, if we understand what they want and what experiences will drive their visitation, we can create strong combat strategies if they’re not looking for department store experiences as they stand today.

H&M is an example of how anchor tenant ships have changed. They’re mostly international brands, but those kinds of businesses that aren’t at the scale of a department store are still anchoring spaces and will continue to be a focus for us.

 

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