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Retail Traffic

Shopper Perks Promote Profits

In an era dominated by the Internet and e-commerce, today's malls are responding with guest services that run the gamut from strollers to shoppertainment. With retail services only as far away as a computer mouse, mall managers are responding with creative guest perks to draw shoppers to their doors while joining forces with their Internet rivals.

Georgia on my mind Located in Atlanta's platinum triangle where 100,000 office employees work within a one-mile span of its tenants, Cumberland Mall is capitalizing on its corporate market with personal shoppers and in-house fashion shows.

Initiated two years ago as a marketing strategy to capture corporate America throughout the work week, the mall's "Corporate Casual Solution" program is proving to be profitable and promising.

"We're located in a very prolific area and we have a lot of competition," says Sue Adamo-Carpenter, marketing director with Cumberland Mall, a property of Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc. Mall officials made a conscious decision to reach shoppers in the workplace so the mall could control sales, she says.

"Because we're densely populated with more than 300,000 office workers within a five-mile radius, we have a natural medium to offer a business-to-business sales program," Carpenter says. "Office workers have less time to shop and many of them live in the suburbs. We intend to capture sales here vs. shoppers shopping on the weekends."

Cumberland Mall's list of neighbors reads like a Fortune 500 Who's Who: Coca Cola, IBM, Georgia Pacific, Worldspan and Georgia Power, just to name a few, are located within minutes of the mall. By contacting the corporations' human resource officers, Carpenter is successfully implementing "Corporate Casual Solution" in the workplace.

Designed around a complimentary 45-minute fashion show, the lunch-and-learn program educates office personnel about the dos and don'ts of corporate attire and trends. Four employees serve as models. Gift prizes and redeemable coupons serve as incentives to lure employees back to the mall to shop. Other luncheon fashion shows at the nearby Georgia Club often result in as much as $5,000 in merchandise sales per show and repeat customers.

Another perk offered by Cumberland's staff is complimentary personal shopping. By scheduling an appointment with the mall's full-time shopping consultant, busy business people communicate their personal needs and preferences, and the shopper does the work.

"The personal shopper goes throughout the entire mall and pre-shops for the items," Carpenter explains. "The client may be a female who wants to redefine her look for spring. She'll tell the shopper her size, her favorite stores and brands, and then the shopper makes selections based on the client's tastes and today's trends."

The personal shopper then invites the client back to the mall to present her findings. The average personal shopper purchase is $1,000 and often results in repeat customers who have enough confidence in their shopper to leave their credit card numbers and addresses for future purchases.

"Most of the clients are corporate employees, but they're all on various (financial) levels," Carpenter says. "We may have the CEO of a company shopping for his wife, or it may be the administrative assistant who's received a gift certificate from human resources for a good evaluation."

Occasionally, an odd request outside of the fashion arena will come in. "We've shopped for corporations wanting to give out corporate gifts, and we've also had convention groups wanting something Georgia-related. Heck, we've even shopped for refrigerators," Carpenter recalls with a laugh.

Shopping for shoppertainment Due to their proximity to major international airports, all of Arlington, Va.-based Mills Corp. properties employ full-time tourism directors because successful shoppertainment can't be achieved without shoppers.

Shoppertainment, Mills' newly created buzzword, was designed to convey the fun of entertainment with a great shopping experience. Except being second to Disney World in the state of Florida, Mills' properties are the leading tourist destinations in their respective states.

"Traditional malls draw a third of the visitors we do," says Todd Land, vice president of marketing with Mills Corp. "The combination of entertainment with retail makes us the tourism draw that we are."

Coupled with full-service concierges that do everything from exchange foreign currency to book hotel and restaurant reservations, shoppertainment is Mills Corp.'s No. 1 retail push. Currently, all nine Mills properties incorporate the entertainment theme, including The Block, an outdoor urban shopping center in Orange County, Calif. At The Block, outdoor art festivals with live performers and artists in residence keep shoppers' interests. Six additional block properties are in Mills' future and all will emphasize a market-dominant retail-entertainment destination.

In addition to more than 200 manufacturer and retail outlet stores, Gurnee Mills in Chicago stresses a "Shop Together, Eat Together, Play Together All Under One Roof" motto. For example, the mall's Rainforest Cafe is "an interactive dining experience," Land says. "It's not unusual to see families wait up to an hour and a half on Saturdays to get a table."

Other family fun and entertainment venues include Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World with its 30,000-gallon fresh-water aquarium, archery ranges and boat displays; a laser tag facility; an indoor reptile exhibit at Serpent Safari; and an ice hockey and figure skating area at Ride Rink Sports.

"Our goal is to keep people at our centers at least an entire day, and if we're lucky they'll extend their stays to two or three days," Land says.

At the Mills center in Ontario, Vans Skate Park draws entire families to the mall. The secured, open-air skateboard park allows adults to drop off their kids for a day of skating so they can shop worry-free, Land says. "It's like being dropped off at the bowling ally, only this is skateboarding and we sell a lot of sneakers."

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