Is emphasizing the “experience” of going to the mall enough to save it from extinction?
Perhaps that sounds like a ridiculous question. When I think of the “experience” of going to the mall, I think of parking lots with their own ZIP codes, surly teenagers, and pervasive homogeneity.
A company named Glimcher Realty Trust is apparently experimenting with the idea of what it actually means to go to the mall:
The company concedes that if shoppers can buy something online, they will. So it is trying to fill one of its malls, in Scottsdale, Ariz., with businesses that do more than sell stuff. There are still clothing-only retailers at the mall, Scottsdale Quarter, but more than half of the stores offer dining or some other experience that cannot be easily replicated on the Web. That has Glimcher executives taking some unconventional approaches to finding suitable tenants — like testing out laser salons, getting hairstyling lessons and watching movies in a theater that serves food.
Some of the ideas are interesting, at least at first – a membership-based store where customers make various crafty-type items, for example, or a clothing store that has a system of video cameras designed to allow women to see how this new pair of jeans will look from behind. But a closer read has me wondering just how much of this is really a new approach:
Scottsdale shoppers can have their hair blown into beachy waves at Drybar, create picture frames at Make Meaning, try a tree pose at Blissful Yoga and grab a kale salad at True Food Kitchen before going to a movie, where they can have drinks and snacks delivered to their reserved seats.
They can also take advantage of in-person-only opportunities at standard retailers, like the so-called booty cam at Industrie Denim, a jeans store, that lets women study their rear view. A Restoration Hardware scheduled to open soon will offer fresh flowers and cups of tea for sale.
Hair salons? Restaurants that serve salads? Haven’t those been in malls since, like, forever? And will fresh flowers and cups of tea for sale really convince someone to come to the mall instead of buying online, especially if the online price is actually lower? And can’t the “booty-cam” be replicated by such advanced technology as a couple of well-placed mirrors?
The New York Times seemed very impressed with the “experience-shopping” concept, but from this story I’m not at all sure this will lead to the revival of the exurban shopping mall.