Gotta catch them (m)all

26 August, 2016

PokeballIt’s fair to say that Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm, and not least the world of shopping centres.  Being launched just before the UK school holidays has meant that hordes of teenagers are now roaming town centres collecting pokeballs and hoping to catch something more exciting than a pidgy or caterpie.  For our shopping centre clients this produces both a unique and rare marketing opportunity, but also a potential centre management headache.


Leading the ‘charge’ have been Hammerson, installing ‘Recharge Rescuers’ in two of their centres, providing emergency battery packs to Pokémon trainers with flat batteries, whilst in Glasgow designated Pokémon Go lanes have been installed to stop players obstructing other shoppers.  Drakes Circus in Plymouth organised a 10k Pokémon walk to help players hatch their eggs into new Pokémon, but also to raise money for charity.  In Singapore, a shopping centre released 6 ‘lures’ to celebrate their national day, hoping to lure both Pokémon and the players (and their wallets).


The game has been described in the US as a ‘shopping centre manager’s dream’ by increasing footfall, encouraging users to walk through parts of the Centre unrelated to their original shopping trip and linger in the Centre for longer, spending and buying more than intended.  It has even been claimed that mobile phone shops have experienced an upswing in trade with people rushing to upgrade their phones.  Anecdotal evidence from recent shopping centre asset meetings we have attended have been that areas of the centres near pokestops (where players can top up their stocks of pokeballs needed to catch Pokémon) or gyms (where Pokémon can be battled against each other) are noticeably busier and fast food tenants have reported a sharp increase in trade, particularly in the evenings when usually shoppers would be headed home.


But it’s not all good news.  One of our clients has reported groups of people congregating late at night in a town centre scheme, leading to a need to increase security patrols and CCTV cover to protect its own property and that of its tenants.  The additional cost will have to be passed on via the service charge, leading to potentially troublesome conversations with tenants at year end for this unanticipated expenditure.


It is also generally expected that reports of trespass will increase alongside the popularity of the game.  There is also an argument that harassment claims could rise from people who live or work in particularly popular pokestops, sick of the constant stream of visitors.  One of the biggest concerns for our clients will no doubt be a rise in claims under the occupier’s liability legislation from players injured whilst playing the game in shops or shopping centres.  A higher duty of care is owed to children, who are perhaps the biggest demographic of Pokémon devotees.  Liability can even, in certain circumstances, also extend to those who are trespassing.


However, on the whole, it appears that Pokémon Go has provided a much needed boost to struggling centres and high streets.  Only time will tell whether the craze has any long-term impact for our shopping centre clients.