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The news regularly touts the rise of e-commerce and predicts the coming demise of “brick-and-mortar retailers” in today’s increasingly digital world. Yet online is currently on track to equal just 5-6 percent of consumer packaged goods sales in 2015. And while shopping from the comfort of a couch is convenient, people still crave a physical place to congregate, connect and engage. More and more, shopping centers are fulfilling a big part of that need, according to the Nielsen Company.

No longer just a place to shop, shopping centers are becoming key activity centers in the social fabric of communities, elevating their purpose beyond simply offering an outlet to buy groceries or pick up a new blouse. This concept is nothing new, but efforts to integrate fully into communities have been rare. However, as shopping centers and malls remain prominent in our culture and consciousness, developers and retailers face big opportunities to activate communities and become a central gathering space for consumers.

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