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Shopping Center Definitions

Global Shopping Center Classifications

A shopping center is defined as a group of retail and other commercial establishments that is planned, developed, owned and managed as a single property, typically with on-site parking provided. Although this is generally the accepted description globally, significant variations exist by region.

Retail real estate professionals need standardized shopping center classification schemes for each area because they facilitate cross-border comparisons, financial and operational benchmarking, and assessment of industry size.

Here you will find definitions of properties by such characteristics as size, number of anchors, merchandise orientation, layout and trade area served.

United States

In the U.S., shopping centers are categorized as either general-purpose or specialized-purpose. General-purpose centers are open-air (convenience, neighborhood and community centers) or enclosed malls (regional and super-regional).

Generally, the smaller open-air centers offer convenience-type goods, while larger ones integrate apparel with other general merchandise. Malls are dominated by general merchandise and fashion-oriented offerings. Specialized-purpose centers—power, lifestyle, factory outlet, theme/festival—have specific types of tenants with a well-defined concept.

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There are 10 principal shopping center types in Canada, which can be grouped into 4 categories— traditional, specialty, hybrid and mixed-use. 

Traditional centers are all-purpose centers that could be either open-air or enclosed, providing convenience or general merchandise goods depending on the specific format.

Specialty centers include those built with a specific purpose and are typically open-air and, occasionally, fully or partly covered.

Hybrids combine elements from 2 or more distinct traditional and/or specialty types, while mixed-use projects are developed as single units, where retail is predominant and is one of the significant revenue-producing uses.

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European shopping centers are classified as either traditional or specialized.

Traditional centers are all-purpose properties that can be either enclosed or open-air and are further classified by size—small, medium, large, or very large.

Specialized centers include specific purpose-built properties (retail parks, factory outlets, theme-oriented) that are typically open-air and could be further classified by size as well.

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Shopping centers in the Asia-Pacific region are general or special purpose.

Those considered general purpose range from small centers offering groceries and other convenience products to large mega-malls with a significant fashion-oriented offering and a large entertainment component.

Special-purpose centers generally have a narrower tenant mix, sell similar types of goods or are related by their concept and purpose.

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