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Article - Research PMR The importance of shopping center catchment area in marketing research in Poland

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Zofia Bednarowska

An increasing number of marketing studies are being carried out in shopping centers. This is a result of their evolving nature, and, consequently – higher customer traffic levels. Shopping centers have become important places on the marketing studies map.

It’s there you’ll find consumers looking for different types of commodities, food and services. It seems like the perfect place to conduct your research – a large closed space, filled with consumers available for surveys nearly all day. These consumers are set on shopping and easy to find when we’re looking for customers of brand X – all you need are interviewers outside shop X. These are the biggest advantages over standard surveys or street surveys. But conducting research in shopping plazas also poses some limitations – for one, you have to have the seal of approval of the shop’s owner or tenant.

But more importantly still, you have to determine who these consumers are. Who are the people who visit shopping center Y and how are they different from consumers in Z? We decided to find out how intense the competition is and where consumers are most likely to go.

In PMR Publications released a report entitled Medium-Sized Cities in Poland – Retail Potential Analysis. Economic Prospects and Condition of The Retail Market (you can find out more at). An analysis of different chains of big-box stores and cities’ economic potential in has shown that among mid-size cities (defined here as cities of 40 to 400 thousand inhabitants) a mere handful have no shopping center. These deficiencies are supplemented by smaller plazas connected to hypermarkets, or upgraded department stores or smaller commercial buildings whose size does not exceed 10,000 square meters (so called “first-generation shopping centers”). In that year, a hundred new shopping centers were in the works. According to our data, in in cities of 40,00-400,000 inhabitants, the density of plazas per person was as high as 3,4 per 10,000 inhabitants.

The market is constantly evolving and has, in many places, reached the point of oversaturation. The number of new fourth or fifth generation centers (as well as upgrades of older plazas) often seems like too much retail space, even from the point of view of citizens. 

We decided to find out what the situation looks like from the other perspective – how many Poles live in a shopping center’s catchment area, i.e. the area from which a shopping center attracts consumers. How many centers are in the fight for a customer? According to Research PMR & Consulting, these are the catchment area numbers, understood here as the average number of plazas located near the permanent place of residence, as measured by the average travel time by car:

An average number of 1,8 plazas are available in under 30 minutes by car, and 1,3 in under 10 minutes - a walking distance away. Keep in mind however that this data has been averaged on a nationwide survey sample, where approx. 46% of respondents live in towns under 20,000 inhabitants, and where there are no second generation shopping centers.

We now know how many plazas are fighting for one customer. But how many of them are actually frequented by the customer? The average number of places visited in the course of a month is 1,5.

An important bit of information is that 30% of respondents don’t visit shopping centers at all. It should not be a surprise that 77% of those people are 50 or over.

What’s important to remember is that all of the respondents’ answers are their declarations, and that in the case of travel time these are their estimates. In order to obtain full answers we let respondents determine those numbers in a way which they find most convenient, afterwards merging the resulting data.

We also asked the respondents how they assess the distance between the nearest plaza and their home. 9 km is the average, however 43% live no further than 3 km away.

This is the catchment area’s potential. Another important thing to consider is how often respondents visit their favourite plaza.

Results indicate that consumers can be divided into two groups. Frequent buyers visit their favourite shopping center once (or more) in every two weeks (50% of respondents), the other 50% go there once a month (or less often).

In conclusion, a high level of saturation can be observed in terms of different types of shopping centers in Poland, also in mid-size cities. Polish consumers live in the catchment area of an average of 1,8 plazas, which are available in under 30 minutes by car and 70% of them visit at least one. That’s considerable potential not just in terms of business development, but also in terms of research and finding consumers and respondents in shopping centers. What’s important to remember however is that you won’t find the full range of consumers there – 30 % of respondents never shop in these places, and those who do have so much choice in terms of where they shop that one retail chain’s customer profile can differ considerably across shopping centers.

Nationwide consumer survey was conducted by PMR in July on a representative sample of 250 adult Poles. Estimation error: max 6%.
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