While much has been made of the decline of the modern mall, the back-to-school shopping season offers a glimpse into how malls are adapting to change. Lily Jamali reports.
The future of malls - and their relevance has become hotly debated of late. That's not stopping shoppers from scouring New York's Queens Center looking for back-to-school deals. Queens Center's Senior Marketing Manager John Scaturro says they're partnering with J.C. Penney and The Children's Place this year. Pre-purchase a gift card at either retailer - and get a free gift card from the mall. SOUNDBITE: JOHN SCATURRO, SENIOR MARKETING MANAGER, QUEENS CENTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It helps people in these economic times stretch their back to school dollar." The way people shop at malls like this is evolving amid the e-commerce explosion. If you've heard of showrooming, where shoppers browse at physical stores but buy online, the new trend is the reverse "webrooming": that's when consumers research online and then come to the mall to make the purchase. The rapid rise of mobile as a way to offer coupons and price-match also seals the deal, says Michael Kercheval, President and CEO of the International Council on Shopping Centers. SOUNDBITE: MICHAEL KERCHEVAL, PRESIDENT AND CEO, INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON SHOPPING CENTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "So now malls have WiFi - It's really embracing the customers with a whole new customers service model - and that's helping. That's really driving sales and it's driving people into stores and shopping centers to purchase." Retailers and the malls themselves have learned from the recession...better to do planned promotions - and try to avoid cutthroat discounts to unload inventory. SOUNDBITE: MICHAEL KERCHEVAL, PRESIDENT AND CEO, INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON SHOPPING CENTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The balance of promotion and inventory management looks really good this back to school season." Kevin Mullaney of The Grayson Company, a retail consulting firm, says for malls that have passed their prime, it's time to reinvent: SOUNDBITE: KEVIN MULLANEY, PRESIDENT, THE GRAYSON COMPANY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "One idea would be to turn themselves into mini-urban centers. Put in some housing - small specialty stores only. But it really has to be changed dramatically." Nailing down the right retail mix is the key, he says something that's relatively easy for malls in affluent areas - but a challenge for those that aren't.