Creating Points of Attraction

Written by  //  March 12, 2011  //  Retail Design  //  No comments

Points of attraction “anchor” a project. People are naturally drawn to particular anchors and in so doing circulate through the retail environment. But what exactly qualifies as an anchor? Traditionally retail centres were almost always anchored by one or more department stores. As department stores have declined in power over the past two decades, other forms of anchors have appeared.

Virtually all retail nodes require some sort of anchor, whether it be an enclosed mall or street shops. Even small strip plazas are often anchored by a cafe or convenience store.

A retail anchor is a store which is capable of drawing customers irrespective of adjacent retailers.

Typical Retail Anchors

Department Stores

Hypermarket / Supermarket

Larger Format Store

Food Court / Cluster of Restaurants

Cinema / Entertainmet Complex

Trendy Fashion Retailer

Non-Retail Anchors

More and more, the importance of non-retail anchors is being recognized in retail planning. Open spaces, creative design features, fountains, benches, a large oak tree, bicycle racks, second hand book store and a Starbucks create a pretty powerful draw for certain demographic segments.

However, what people are most attracted to are other people. Many of us like to be in environments where we can see others and be seen. This “body heat” phenomenon is incredibly strong and is what drives places like Whistler Village and The Grove.

During the height of the lifestyle centre craze, developers increasingly became attracted to this non-retail anchor aspect, partially as they did not have to subsidize rents for anchor retailers. What has become clear during the recession is that these subjective non-retail anchor features are not enough by themselves: they must be combined with traditional retail anchors to succeed over the long term.

About the Author


Reurbanist is a multi-disciplinary firm that blends land use economics with urban planning and economic development. At its core, Reurbanist believes that great urban places that are compelling and vibrant must find success at both a fiscal and social level. Stronger cities and urban destinations translate into improved job growth, municipal tax revenue, and a higher quality of life for residents.

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