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Charged Up

American Express card members shopping at Taubman Centers' the Mall at Short Hills this holiday season have a new space to take a breather.

They can sink into leather seating and enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages and recharge their cell phones, laptops or other electronic devices as part of American Express's exclusive “Members Lounge” now operating at the property.

The 3,400-square-foot lounge offers seating for up to 100 cardholders who can take advantage of free Internet access, gift-wrapping and a coat check, among the other services.

Visitors to the lounge can receive discounts on American Express Membership Rewards merchandise. The lounge also sells American Express gift cards. And, of course, for mall-goers who do not already have an American Express card, they can apply on-site to gain immediate access to the Lounge.

It's a pilot project for American Express, which chose the mall, located in Summit N.J. — located 25 miles outside New York City — because of the high concentration of American Express cardholders in the surrounding area.

Mike McAvinue, general manager for the Mall at Short Hills, adds that the upscale demographics the property caters to with tenants like Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. and Chanel, meshes well with the kind of customers American Express targets. McAvinue also sees it as providing a service to mall shoppers.

“It is a supercharged amenity for our customers,” says McAvinue.

American Express is testing the lounge through the holiday season. It has signed a temporary lease on the space and will operate the lounge through January 14. Depending on its success, American Express may extend the run and look to introduce lounges at other upscale centers. Neither American Express or the Mall at Short Hills would discuss the financial arrangments.

“We know the experience of shopping is just as important as the act of shopping,” says a spokesperson for American Express. “This is the ultimate destination for our members and a service that complements their lifestyle.”

Nearly 2,000 American Express card members visited the lounge its first weekend in mid-November. There was no notice sent to cardholders of the lounge's opening.

The Mall at Short Hills is so sold on the concept, it says it wants to extend the lease and make the lounge a permanent feature of the property.

“I'd love to see it,” says McAvinue. “You never know.”

For now, the lounge will be open daily until December 31, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas days. After that, it will be open on weekends in January through the end of its lease term.

McAvinue says it is too early to tell if the lounge will boost the Mall's 10 million annual customer visits.

Wasn't Spam

Wal-Mart Stores, for the first time, e-mailed customers in advance a list of additional items that were to be discounted when purchased in stores on “Black Friday.”

Leveraging its online channel, it offered eight secret items, in addition to the 70 featured in a Thanksgiving circular as part of its advertised “Black Friday” discounts.

The eight secret sale items were only available for purchase in stores on November 24 between the hours of 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. and helped produce an early morning rush.

The Web mailing was in conjunction with the retailer's price rollback campaign that featured previously announced reductions on thousands of holiday gift items.

Yo Santa

Pennsylvania REIT's The Mall at Prince Georges boasts having the real deal with its Santa Claus this year, claiming it has the region's only naturally-bearded, African-American Santa.

Located in Hyattsville, Md., in Prince Georges County, the mall is located in one of the wealthiest predominantly African-American counties in the United States. It's 62.7 percent African-American. The median family income in Prince Georges County is $62,467.

No Plastic

Westfield has ditched paper plates and plastic forks at food courts in its new Westfield San Francisco Centre and Westfield Topanga projects in favor of custom-designed porcelain dinnerware, flatware, glassware, trays and even custom chopsticks. Many malls are now moving away from throw-away tableware, but Westfield is going upscale.

Los Angeles-based retailer, Table Art designed and manufactured the table settings. Table Art's owner, Walter Lowry, created 18 pieces for each property. The porcelain designs blend Asian and European themes.

Lowry worked with Westfield to come up with the artwork and patterns.TableArt has been operating a store in Los Angeles since November 2004. It sells pieces from outside manufacturers as well as custom pieces.

Cut the Line

Taubman Centers launched a “Gift Cards on Wheels” in an attempt to sell Taubman-branded gift cards outside of its properties. The company is testing the program by attempting to sell the cards to Compuware workers outside the firm's Detroit headquarters. On December 13 and December 14, employees at Compuware can purchase the gift card, in any denomination between $20 and $300, at their office.

To reach the male market, Taubman also began selling the cards at three Motor City locations of the sports bars on Black Friday.

A recent survey by Consumer Reports National Research Center, cited 60 percent of the 1,000 adults polled said they intended to give gift cards this year. Women ranked them as their most-desired gift.

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