Struggling Malls Stage Events to Boost Spending


Struggling Malls Stage Events to Boost Spending
Published on May 26, 2009
With impulse shopping at a standstill, malls and shopping centers have boosted their reliance on staging events – which often have nothing to do with shopping – in order to goose spending.

Malls are adding music festivals, wine tastings, art fairs, high school fundraisers and cooking seminars, among others, according to The Chicago Tribune.

“Free events and free entertainment are very attractive when times are tough. If you can’t afford to take the family out to a movie, you might still go down and hear a band at the mall,” says Brian Kilcourse, managing partner at Miami-based retail consulting firm Retail Systems Research.

One mall event planner estimates that the number of events at shopping malls has increased as much as 20% this year.

A music and sports touring event from teen retailer Journeys and other sponsors drew 22,000 to a Chicago mall, 18,000 to a mall in Baltimore and 15,000 to a mall outside Las Vegas. That’s thousands of people attending a mall event who may be enticed to spend money while they’re there, even if they hadn’t planned to.

U.S. shopping traffic fell 16% in the U.S. in March from the same month the prior year, following a 9% decline in February and a 13% drop in January, according to ShopperTrak RCT Corp. And in the 12 months ended March 31, malls collectively posted a 6.5% decline in same-store sales, according to Green Street Advisors Inc., a real-estate research firm (via The Wall Street Journal).

Standard & Poor’s last month dropped the credit ratings of the department-store sector, sending Macy’s Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. into junk territory. Meanwhile, Sears is expected to close 23 stores in coming months and General Growth Properties, which owns more than 200 malls in the country, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

But some signs indicate an improvement. The Consumer Confidence Index built upon its dramatic April increase with a 14.1-percentage point jump in May, writes Retailer Daily. The Index now stands at 54.9, up from an adjusted score of 40.8 in April. It stood at 26.9 in March.

The percentage of consumers rating current business conditions as “bad” increased during the past month, from 44.9% to 45.3%. However, the percentage of consumers rating current business conditions as “good” also increased, from 7.9% to 8.7%.

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