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The value of feeling good

Time is our most valuable asset. Whether it trickles, flows or gallops by, the time that belongs to each and every one of us is constantly diminishing.

The instant we take our first breath, the countdown starts. That’s right. We all have a sell-by date.

As we get older and start to comprehend and come to terms with our mortality, we strive to optimize our time, as we do all limited resources—just think about how, as a civilization, we regulate the consumption of water, fossil fuels, diamonds!

If we perceive that our time has been spent productively or generously or even responsibly, we will feel that it has been time well-spent, and our lives will seem to take on a deeper meaning. But at the end of the day, what we all hope to obtain in exchange for the time we spend, is happiness.

In this sense, the value of happiness is measured in time.

We rarely regret spending time if it makes us happy.

Let’s take that thought a little further. We could say that if we associate something or someone or even a random moment with happiness, we will willingly spend our valuable time on seeking out that thing or person or instant again and again.

More importantly, we will also spread the word about how that happiness is to be had.

When happiness is contagious: sweets at double the price

On a recent visit to London, word had already spread at the M&M’s store in Leicester Square. It was packed with tourists, spending their valuable holiday time buying bags, bottles and even plastic teddy bears filled with sugar-coated chocolate peanuts.

If the same weight in M&M’s can be bought for half the price at supermarkets two stops down the Piccadilly line, or indeed at any supermarket in the country, why are consumers at the Leicester Square store willing to pay nearly double the value of the product?

It’s simple. It makes them feel good. Huge pick ’n’ mix tubes line the cavernous walls like space-age industrial piping, evoking both the homeliness of the sweet shops of old and the outlandishness of a Willie Wonker factory. More importantly, the store successfully blends the M&M’s brand with the London tourist experience. This is the essence of its success, this is its je-ne-sais-quoi. Tourists may enjoy a visit to this store as much as a tour of the Tower of London, and they will go home with souvenirs to prove it: a bag of sweets in the colours of the Union Jack and perhaps a selfie with a giant orange M&M dressed as a beefeater.

At theleisureway, we conceive and construct shopping centres as leisure ecosystems, each with their own je-ne-sais-quoi, with their own allure.

Just as the Leicester Square M&M’s store attracts five million visitors a year (that’s more than The Natural History Museum!), our goal is to guarantee a steady flow of consumer traffic to our shopping centres and generate such elevated perceptions of well-being that consumers stay for more time than intended, leave with the desire to return, and don’t mind paying that little bit extra for the products they purchase while on the premises.

The feel-good formula for our leisure ecosystems: adding time to the equation

Just how much deeper into their pockets consumers are prepared to dig depends largely on disposable income.  But it’s not that simple. Our wages can only buy happiness up to a point. If we work harder to earn more money to spend on products or experiences that will provide us with a greater perception of well-being, we will have less time to enjoy the leisure associated with the product, and will consequently not achieve the happiness we hanker after.

Because what consumers are really spending at shopping centres is time—both the time it took them to earn the money they are parting with, and the time they spend browsing through stores.

But how can a variable as unquantifiable as time be added to our formula for leisure ecosytems?

Newton’s laws of motion established that the passing of time is an absolute concept, not liable to change. Then Einstein came along with his theories of relativity. “Time is an illusion,” he claimed, famously.  

Recently, psychologists have demonstrated that emotions are, in fact, more important to the perception of time than quantum physics. Time flies when you are having fun and drags when you are bored. Right?

Observing the market through “leisure goggles”: a visionary approach

It is our aim for consumers at our shopping centres to feel as if time has raced by and that their most valuable asset has been wisely and happily spent. To this end, at theleisureway, we pay close attention to advances in psychology and neuroscience that explain perceptions of well-being. We observe aspects of the market that are related to positive human emotions through what we call leisure goggles. Then we apply our findings, including intangible variables such as perceptions of time and well-being into our analysis of supply and demand data.

Our leisure ecosystems are designed with just the right mix of emotions to encourage consumers to spend a higher percentage of their valuable time in our shopping centres.

And to feel good about doing so.