Many years ago I did a design study of the shopping experience at the then new IKEA store in Taipei. Their guided approach to shopping was novel to me at the time and in stark contrast to the undesigned experiences I experienced elsewhere.
Most shopping centers follow a similar strategy when dealing with moving customers through-out their space. The escalators force you to walk through the aisles at each floor, or expose you to different stores, thereby exposing you to more product, and there are few short-cuts or direct routes (for fire safety reasons IKEA has somewhat hidden routes that bypass their experience).
This is fine if you come to spend the day inside and you enjoy browsing through the shops in a mall, Taiwanese shopping behavior is often like this, especially on a hot day.
But this design does not accommodate goal directed behavior. When I visit a shopping center it’s for a very specific reason – go to the book store, or sports shops, or see a movie. I might browse within these areas but customers like myself prefer direct paths and don’t appreciate the friction that many shopping centers purposely design for. A great design would accommodate both behaviors, but would it result in increased sales?
Big City in Hsinchu has direct access to the theatre via a long escalator, but to leave requires you to use the stairs. Many instead walk through the jam packed food area.
I haven’t seen any data, but I would guess that this sub-optimal design does result in increased sales. An example of an in optimal experience being best for business.