Bad Business Ideas: Malls

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Another impact of low mall sales: Escalator repairs are down.

When faced with the option of spending an afternoon in a closed box, surrounded by stores that time has passed by, more consumers are moving online or to micro-retail to get their shopping fix. And this exodus is causing many central Florida malls to scramble to stay relevant.

Sales, special promotions, and minor aesthetic updates have slowed the turn, but not enough. Some “mallctivists” believe that for malls to survive, they can’t try to beat the upstarts at their own game. They have to concentrate on what made them malls from the beginning.

“Traditional malls have one thing going for them: nostalgia,” says Sally Granade, spokesperson for the Advertising Society of Seminole County (ASSC). “It’s where a lot of us grew up, spent our youths, and learned how to be the people we are today. Bring back that feeling. Bring back the Orange Julius. Open Chik-Fil-A on Sundays. Forget Carrabba’s and Crate & Barrel. Where else can you get a Cinnabon and shop at an honest to God candle store?”

Seminole Towne Center and the Oviedo Mall have been hit particularly hard by the consumer migration, and the facilities have considered turning all retail space into cell phone stores, eyebrow manicuring, and jewelry shops. However, with the potential loss of millions of tax dollars from slow mall sales, public and private groups approached ASSC to help boost shopping numbers.

“We created a framework of individuals and organizations from every walk of life and broke down the barriers that separated us, revealing ourselves in a very raw and real way,” says Granade. “I mean, we just did trust falls, but you know, raw ones.”

“And what did we learn about ourselves? Simply put, we’re all children. Scared children. And when you think about it, that’s what malls are all about: Being a scared child, lost in a department store, seemingly abandoned by our mothers and fathers. And that’s really why malls are so important, isn’t it?”

Initial numbers indicate malls that adopted aggressive retro campaigns managed to boost sales by almost three percent for the first few days of the promotion. Then everyone went back to shopping elsewhere.

“So the nostalgia thing, that was a bad idea, especially the Z. Cavaricci promotion,” says Granade. “The pants were just so tapered. There was no way we could have known that would happen. But that’s just a temporary roadblock. ASSC is packed with other plans for helping malls. We’ve heard really good things about what Artegon is doing. We’ll try that!”

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