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Mall Owners Look to Incentives to Boost Black Friday

Mall Owners Look to Incentives to Boost Black Friday

In an effort to boost traffic counts on Black Friday, mall owners around the country will employ a lot of freebies—ranging from free breakfasts to mystery envelopes filled with prizes.

While forecasters are maintaining a positive outlook for the holiday shopping season, consumers remain focused on value, mall owners say, and the best way to get them to spend is to offer discounts.

The ICSC Holiday Watch report estimates that approximately 60 percent of mall managers will offer incentives for the holiday season, including free parking, refreshments, gift wrapping and gifts with purchase. Additionally, about 67 percent of mall managers plan to use special events such as celebrity appearances, movie ticket giveaways and contests to drive people to their centers. And, of course, 90 percent of mall managers plan to extend shopping hours on Black Friday.

ICSC projects that in 2010, same-store sales during the holiday shopping season will increase from 3 percent to 3.5 percent, making it the best sales year since 2006. ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based firm research firm, projects that same-store sales will increase 3.2 percent, while shopper traffic will increase 1 percent.

Zeroing in on Black Friday specifically, ICSC expects that 31 percent of U.S. households will make a trip to the mall on Nov. 26, up from 26 percent in 2009.

“The early predictions we are hearing from our retailers are very positive,” says Barb Faucette, vice president of mall marketing with CBL & Associates Properties, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based regional mall REIT. “People are spending. We could see maybe a 3 percent increase this holiday season, so we are very encouraged by that.”

In preparation for the holiday season, CBL has updated all its mall Web sites with marketing materials related to holiday shopping. On Black Friday, about a dozen of its centers will hold a Rise ‘N Reward promotion, with the first 500 shoppers to arrive at the mall set to receive a mystery envelope with a CBL gift card ranging from $10 to $100 in value, as well as hotel vouchers and tickets to concerts and sporting events. At least one shopper will also receive an iPad.

The mystery envelopes have become enough of a draw in the past few years that in 2010 the number of retailers who will participate in these promotions has grown by approximately 8 percent to 10 percent compared to 2009, according to Dana Katterjohn, regional marketing director for the Nashville region with CBL.

CBL has also distributed more than a million holiday coupon books at its malls, in addition to posting the coupons on individual mall sites. The coupons offer discounts from participating mall retailers.

Some Taubman Centers’ malls will offer free refreshments to early bird shoppers on Black Friday. For example, at Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn, Mich., the first 1,000 shoppers to arrive will get a hot breakfast including scrambled eggs, potatoes, pastries and coffee.

“I can tell you that the store managers who we’ve spoken with directly attribute morning sales increases year-over-year to the breakfast,” says Darla J. Bowen, marketing and sponsorship director with Fairlane Town Center. “Anecdotally, they feel that shoppers spend more time in the center as a result of the breakfast, and don’t rush off to another shopping destination before visiting several stores.”

Another Taubman property, the Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township, Mich., will offer shoppers free appetizers from participating restaurants from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Black Friday. The appetizers will range from margherita pizza to Bavarian pretzels.

Meanwhile, Taubman’s The Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, Texas will give away 13 $500 mall gift cards to shoppers who register for the drawing. A gift card will be given away every hour starting at 9:00 a.m. on Nov. 26.

Personnel at Simon malls will be serving shoppers Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies starting on Friday and continuing on every weekend through the holiday season. The strategy “was a big success last year,” says Les Morris, a spokesman for Simon Property Group, an Indianapolis, Ind.-based regional mall REIT.

And Macerich Co., a Santa Monica, Calif.-based regional mall REIT, will hold Midnight Madness events at 14 of its properties. The malls will open their doors at midnight after Thanksgiving Day, giving shoppers the ability to participate in a variety of promotional offers. For example, at the Queens Center mall in Queens, N.Y., Macerich will give a $10 gift card to the first 300 people in line. At another center, the first 1,000 shoppers will get a Midnight Madness t-shirt, says Mechelle Peters, assistant vice president of consumer and retail marketing with Macerich.

Early bird shoppers will also get goodie bags containing free gifts cards and retailer coupons at many centers managed by Jones Lang LaSalle Retail, an Atlanta-based third party property manager.

In addition, mall managers will be stepping up their digital marketing efforts this year. Simon plans to use its recently rolled-out Simon iPhone app to give shoppers access to retailers’ holiday promotions. Shoppers at Jones Lang LaSalle’s properties will be able to find free parking and other perks through text messages. And almost everyone plans to post up-to-the-minute discount offers on Facebook and Twitter.

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