Shopping Centres
John’s experience with the shopping      
centre industry dates back over 20yrs.               

John’s experience with the shopping centre industry dates back 20 years or more, when he was Advertising Manager for the giant Roselands shopping centre in Sydney. Still in his early 20’s, this marketing experience involving hundreds of tenants, was an invaluable baptism to the world of shopping mall marketing for John.

At the time, Roselands was the forerunner of providing free entertainment as a drawcard for shoppers.

The famous Raindrop Fountain stage hosted both national and international celebrities such as Max Bygraves, Phyllis Diller, Engelbert Humperdink, Tom Jones, Johnny Young and the Young Talent Team, Mike Walsh, Sherbert and scores of other big names.

Such entertainment at shopping centres would not make sense today, as consumers’ tastes for “a shopping environment” have changed. However, in its day, the Roselands “entertainment promotional model” certainly added dollars to the retailers’ tills.


“Oh, with perhaps one or two exceptions” says John, who recalls one such occasion being when his inexperience came to the fore and he booked an appearance by a pop star named Leif Garrett.

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Pandermonium at Roselands! Click here to enlarge

The Edels Music Store had offered the opportunity of a personal appearance to John, as a promotional stunt for Leif’s latest single. John quickly accepted.

What John didn’t realise, was that Leif Garrett was one of the biggest pop sensations of the last decade and therefore was about to create absolute pandemonium wherever he appeared! This was a lesson that John would not forget.

Why? Because 15,000 screaming schoolgirls packed the Roselands shopping centre, bringing trading to a standstill, even four hours before Leif’s scheduled appearance!

John recalls, “I was astounded. Whilst I knew he was a popular pop artist, I didn’t realise his appearance would generate a Beatlemania-style response. Virtually every local teenage girl had left school at lunch time to get to Roselands early for the best position to see their idol at 6 pm.“ The police and security became so concerned about the risks of letting Leif Garrett appear on stage, he was forced to make a brief appearance on an upstairs restaurant balcony. And even then, because of the reaction from the 15,000 schoolgirls, he was whisked away to a waiting helicopter within minutes. The result was virtually no increase in sales (except perhaps for bubble gum), broken barricades and four or five ambulances to attend to some young victims of the “crush”.

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Pandermonium at Roselands! Click here to enlarge

John recounts, “it was certainly a mistake on my part not to have properly researched the popularity of Leif Garrett. And furthermore, it certainly taught me a valuable lesson in ensuring that promotional activity in the future, attracted the right sort of audience, not just any audience.

With this in mind, John’s future shopping centre marketing exploits for Roselands and others, were based on sound research and focused targeting.

And today, more than 20 years later, he specialises in providing shopping centre developers with a sophisticated and measurable marketing template for their shopping complexes. “No more rock stars” John emphasises.


John comments, “smart developers understand the importance of a good tenant mix and therefore create the all-important balance of food and fashion in their malls. Such a tenant mix naturally attracts high net worth customers who fall into certain demographic profile segments.” John goes on to say, “it is therefore my role to find where such customers live and how best to communicate to them.”

The days of sporadic “centre stage entertainment” are long gone and John explains “it’s now all about geo-demographically profiling the various customer segments the shopping centre is targeting – and then creating marketing devices to find and stimulate them.”

John does this with the assistance of his research providers, accurately plotting where such customers live within the catchment area of the relevant mall. He then uses the “wow factor” element to attract such customers to the centre.

Coming from a Woolworths background, John appreciates the various merchandise “marketing techniques” which stand out from the crowd – and that essentially, any shopping centre’s marketing needs to concentrate more on its goods and services, and less on talent quests and cooking demonstrations on stage.


John explains “the days of short-term stage entertainment and gimmicks are over. Shopping centre owners now recognise that in order for their asset to continue to climb in value, their marketing plan needs to essentially be an insurance policy. In other words, it needs to create customer loyalty so that the centre continues to enjoy full tenancy, as well as build the brand. “

And because John’s background with shopping centres includes not only marketing roles, but also involvement with senior management at a development level, he appreciates the long-term objectives of shopping centre developers. Indeed, John’s unique services are in regular demand from developers who are refurbishing existing shopping centres, normally getting his views and advice even in the initial planning stages of such upgrades.

The importance of a good “tenant mix” is one thing, “but the communication of the sexiness of this retail mix is another thing” says John. And he adds, “it is amazing how many times one sees a beautifully designed shopping complex with all the vital tenant-mix ingredients, only to find that within 12 months, it suffers from a high vacancy-factor mainly due to poor marketing and weak brand building”.

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“Geo-demographic mapping is of absolute importance for marketing one’s shopping centre.

John further adds, “it’s all about creating the right image and personality for your complex. I’ve seen upmarket shopping centres in geographic locations which predominantly house “AB” demographic customers, marketed in a Bi-Lo way. “

In other words, it was like Billabong surf wear trying to market their gear to retirees! “For developers and shopping centre owners, it is so important to recognise the vital marketing rule of establishing the appropriate image for your target audience and tenant mix,” says John.

USE THE RIGHT COMMUNICATIONS John laughs when asked about his views on the use of electronic media for some shopping centres. He responds, “I’m absolutely flabbergasted when I’m driving through a big city like Sydney or Melbourne and hear a community shopping centre being advertised heavily on a city radio station! With most centres, even regional malls, essentially drawing customer traffic from a 10-15 km radius, the wastage factor on a medium like radio is outrageous!”

John was able to save one recent shopping centre client over $300,000 a year in media expenditure, by proving that radio advertising was virtually a complete waste of time. Through customer research and geo-demographic profiling, he could show the shopping centre owner that radio was reaching only less than 5% of its potential customers, therefore illustrating that 95% of all radio expenditure was wasted.

This $300,000 saving was then re-directed into more focused advertising strategies, targeted at the most likely customer prospects, those who lived within a 10-15 km radius.


One of the additional aspects of John’s marketing services is being able to provide to shopping centre owners, advice on being able to measure the effectiveness of their advertising. There’s a few tricks to the methods he uses, but John highlights “it is really all about using common sense. Too many shopping centres are simply spraying bullets in the marketplace, hoping to hit the odd customer or two. And unfortunately, because many of the centre’s marketing staff may not have a lot of media experience, they can sometimes become easy prey for the local radio or newspaper rep.”

John’s shopping centre clients over the years have included most of the big guns, namely Westfield, Lend Lease, Stockland, the AMP Group, Byvan and the Woolworths Shopping Centre Division. And whilst some years ago, he was predominantly asked to provide shopping malls with “quick-fix promotional concepts”, these days he is being contacted by shopping centre developers and asked to provide big picture marketing advice over a longer term.

With his unique set of skills including being able to provide sound strategic advice, plus the vital magic ingredient of “wow factors”, he offers shopping centre owners a “one-stop shop”. He also offers developers “peace of mind” in terms of knowing their brand is in good marketing hands.

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