Upscale Malls Reach Out as Shoppers Cut Back

Although Southern California mall owners say they are generally faring better than many of their counterparts in other parts of the country, they're feeling the pinch and looking for ways to lure shoppers back.

"If you are complacent you are going to get hurt in this economy," said mall owner Rick Caruso, who arranged free summer concerts and movies outdoors at his Grove and Americana at Brand shopping centers in Los Angeles County. The Wednesday night programs have produced sales spikes, he said.

"We're spending more on marketing, programming and events," Caruso said. "During times that are challenging you ramp it up."

Times are definitely challenging for many stores and malls, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The industry trade group said overall retail sales were up 2.6% in July compared with the year before, but the growth was mostly among warehouse-like club stores such as Costco and Sam's Club. Clothing shops, department stores, jewelry stores and retailers catering to teenagers all reported declines in sales.


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