Nova Scotia mall reinvents itself as a 'social destination'

Photo: Adams Photography/Sunnyside Mall

Photo: Adams Photography/Sunnyside Mall

At one time, the old saying "if you build it, they will come" pertained to many shopping malls. Times have changed: online shopping and increasing mall competition have some landlords seeking new relevance for their properties. One Nova Scotia mall is bucking the chain store trend, rebranding as a 'social destination' that features local retailers and designers.

Bedford's Sunnyside Mall addresses the evolution of shopping malls, by moving from a purely retail environment to a 'social destination'. This means that consumers can shop, spend time with friends, eat at restaurants and take part in community events, all under one roof. The 311,000 square foot mall is already home to the largest indoor market in the Maritimes (called Marketside) and is the only mall in the region to offer family-friendly space for parents and children. 

Experts are taking notice. Ramesh Venkat, associate professor of marketing at Saint Mary’s University, says:

"With the rise of online retailing, there is a shift in the traditional bricks and mortar shopping experience. Online shops are very strong on price and selection, so shopping centres need to differentiate themselves by making shopping an experience - a place for customers to be entertained, to dine, to meet their friends and family, to connect with their community and to receive excellent customer service. The idea is to create a destination, tapping into the social aspect of shopping and delivering an experience you can only get at the shopping centre. Customers spend more time because there are more things to do."

Sunnyside Mall's rebranding comes at a milestone: the mall turns 50 this year. Its overhaul began with a new management team. Rethinking the mall's tenant mix involves taking into account the mall's community roots: Bedford and its surrounding area has a number of independent retailers and designers, with many seeking retail space. This month alone, several Nova Scotia-based retailers and designers are moving into the mall, including Limoncello Lifestyle, Boso Bamboo Boutique, and a local furniture boutique called Statement. Turbine, by local fashion designer Lisa Drader-Murphy, is set to open in September.

General Manager David Seviour says: 

“Sunnyside Mall is undergoing a transformation to expand its boutique shopping experience. We’re creating a distinctly different shopping experience featuring the best, most unique and sought-after products and services. There’s a positive energy that happens when you bring in the right combination of stores. We’re creating a one-of-a-kind shopping experience that goes beyond the typical generic mall environment, which better suits the character of the vibrant Bedford community.”

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