Thursday, February 26, 2009

Woe Is Mall

Shopping centers are suffering, as you certainly know. A few are closing, many are trimming operating hours, more are simply covering the windows where small boutiques or specialty stores once proudly stood.

On last night's reconnaissance mission to a nearby mall, I was able to park 2 spots away from the entrance--unthinkable just 6 months ago. The Bertucci's restaurant was busy but Macy's and other stores had many more employees than shoppers.

Saks--which kicked off a pre-Christmas discount frenzy among high-end retailers--admits profit margins are down but says the steep markdowns were necessary (but may be a thing of the past). Fortunoff's is running a giant going-out-of-business sale. The list goes on and on. Woe is mall.

Still, some malls are actively trying to attract shoppers by opening big sit-down restaurants, offering free Wi-Fi, setting up children's play areas, and more. One of my local malls has gotten rid of those by-the-week pushcart retailers and is attracting families with a bungie jumping activity.

America is over-malled and getting mauled by the economy. This is where smart marketing will weed out the creative from the ordinary. Here's one example of mall experimentation. Local stores and shoppertainment, anyone?

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