Visitors to the aquarium at the Dubai Mall.
Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
PAGE 3
Last month, I was in Dubai to deliver a speech to executives in the shopping center and mall businesses in the Middle East. I toured a couple of the malls, and I was absolutely blown away by the extreme emphasis on experience that these malls provided. Of course, one of the reasons for this is that Dubai is a desert country and the mall is a great place to beat the heat. Average daytime temperatures in January are in the 70s, while from June to September they are over 100. The developers and operators of these malls have realized they can keep people in the mall for hours—if not a full day—by providing a variety of experiences.

One mall has an actual ski slope for skiing and snowboarding. The Dubai Mall, in which I spent the better part of an afternoon, has one of the world's largest indoor aquariums (seen in this page's photo). You can walk underneath it and see sharks suspended just a few feet overhead. And there's even more! An entire section is devoted to an interactive game park for kids. At a miniature soccer field, anyone can take three shots at a goal and win a prize. I was thrilled to walk into a Japanese book store with 300,000 titles, making it two to three times the size of the average mega-bookstore in the United States. There were also mall standbys—a multiplex theater and a food court. Only, the food court was one of the most luxurious, varied and high-quality food courts I have ever seen. There was a magnificent four-story fountain with sculptured swan divers in suspended animation. Finally, there was the entrance to the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Malls like this point the way to the interactive, entertaining, highly social shopping centers of tomorrow. Once we feel good about how cheap we bought our household goods, after we have shopped the globe online for convenient deals, we will meet our friends to share, interact and enjoy the ever more stimulating environment of the experiential shopping malls of tomorrow.

How do you see the future of shopping? What do you think will be the shopping trends for the next 10 years?

David Houle is an award-winning futurist and strategist who has launched successful brands and is an in-demand speaker about the future. He writes the popular futurist blog Evolution Shift and lives his life slightly ahead of the curve.

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