Despite headwinds, one mall remains strong as retailers struggle to find new conditions.Business observer

On September 11, 2001, a mall was scheduled to open in Tampa as the country

On September 11, 2001, a mall was scheduled to open in Tampa as the country dealt with one of the most difficult and shocking moments in history.

This was the International Plaza. It will eventually become a destination, attracting both tourists and locals. But that day, horrifying news came from Manhattan and Washington, DC, and soon from the fields in Pennsylvania, so nothing was happy.

No. September 11, 2001 was not the day of the grand opening.

“We were pretty shocked by everyone else in the country,” Aj Jemison, then general manager, told local media that day. “I have nothing to celebrate now.”

Instead, the mall opened quietly three days later.

Despite its late and ominous start, International Plaza has become one of Florida’s premier shopping destinations, making it a rival center in Miami and Naples with a number of upscale retailers on its roster. It has become a must-see destination for tourists in its 20-year history. Tourists make up 50% of customers, according to mall officials.

And even in an era when shopping malls are proclaimed dead, they can still attract an average of about 19 million visitors annually.

So why is this? Why does this mall continue to be such an attraction in an era when e-commerce is the king and the number of retailers in physical stores is skyrocketing?

“It’s no secret that it’s the destination of Tampa’s, and in fact, the Midwestern Florida elite,” R. R., a professor of economics at the University of South Florida.Christopher Jones

This is the easiest way to answer your question: International Plaza is not your average mall. You won’t see shoppers lined up for sale on Black Friday, and you won’t find arcades, hot topics, or Spencer’s gifts.

This is a type of mall that attracts world-class athletes trying to get a little bit at Tiffany, rather than attracting a group of teens walking down the hallway.

But when asked by current general manager Gary Malfloyd, he says, in addition to a wide range of services, there is a far more fundamental reason why International Plaza remains attractive. , And that’s what the shopping mall gives you, “says Malfroid.

“You can’t get that exchange online. You can only get it directly. I always see it this way: you buy all these nice clothes to see yourself in the mirror Not. You have to go out so that someone can see them. “

The assortment is a niche

Malfroid has managed this property for 15 years. This is a fairly long tenure at one of Mall GM. In addition to the connection, he acknowledges the mall’s success both at various retail stores and at Bay Street, a row of restaurants to the west of the mall.

Overall, International Plaza has 1.19 million square feet of total rentable space, including a 125,000 square foot outdoor plaza. With over 200 stores and 15 restaurants, the mall is currently at its “maximum capacity,” according to mall officials.

Mall officials refuse to disclose current sales data. Recently, in 2016, International Plaza was one of the top malls in the country with an estimated $ 925 per square foot, according to a report by research firm Green Street Advisors. And in 2019, the then-owner of the mall, Tobman Centers, averaged $ 972 per square foot of 21 US malls. (Tobman still owns the mall, but mall industry giant Simon Property Group acquired 80% of Tobman in a $ 3.4 billion transaction in late 2020.)

As I walked through the mall early Tuesday afternoon in late September, shoppers filled the corridors on both floors and the store was busy. As a retailer, there were several storefronts, among which Gucci and Lululemon were in the process of expansion, preparing to open several other stores, including Yves Saint Laurent.

According to Malfloyd, the mall offers the perfect combination of what the average shopper is looking for and a luxury luxury store. He believes this is a big attraction. Malls can attract shoppers in almost any economic demographic by offering unique stores and experiences.

And he may be right.

Yes, the mall counts Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Breitling, Tiffany and Tory Burch as tenants. But there are also Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Dillard’s, H & M, and Foot Locker. The food court has Chick-fil-A while the Capital Grill is on Bay Street.

As you walk through the mall, you will see two faces. Luxury luxury stores are nearby and there are more standard fare pockets.

According to Malfroid, this is by design and is driven primarily by the market. Tenants like to be around other tenants who sell similar products for competitive reasons, he says.

“It’s really (now) a one-stop shop,” he says, thanks to the mall’s design, store offerings, and Bay Street components.

“You can do everything. You can spend the day here,” says Malfroid. “We often hear that when it rains on the beach, the beach flows into the International Plaza.”

Rich is a niche

R. Christopher Jones, a professor of economics at the University of South Florida and president and chief economist of Florida Economic Advisors, says that the real secret to the success of International Plaza is much of Economics 101. Niche is not aimed at the average shopper,

“It all comes down to one basic aspect … and it’s the market that International Plaza caters to,” he says. “The typical shopper at International Plaza has a much higher household income than the average shopper at any other mall.”

“It’s not a secret,” he adds. “It’s the destination of Tampa’s, and in fact, the Midwestern Florida elite.”

Unlike Malfloyd, who sees malls as a mecca for practical shopping, Jones says malls serve shoppers in the top 10% to 15% of buyers. These are shoppers who are less sensitive to the cyclical economic changes in the market. So when other malls are dealing with recessions and aftershocks of a recession, International Plaza doesn’t feel like it’s completely struck.

Because the mall is a type of luxury luxury store that counts as a tenant, it attracts prominent and wealthy individuals such as executives, athletes and entertainers. And this type of customer demands a certain level of products and services that are not available in malls in other regions.

“For that wealthy segment of retail buyers, the shopping experience goes beyond simply finding the goods and services they can get at the highest value in dollars,” Jones says.

“They seek personal service and attention in the choices they make. At the luxury stores of International Plaza, salespeople work specially with this exclusive customer base to be virtually personal. I’m trained to be a good shopper. “

He says cultivar retailers don’t have the same level of service, such as Amazon, Wal-Mart, department stores, and malls aimed at average-income shoppers.

The future is a niche

Whether you’re the average shopper at International Plaza, the general public or a wealthy shopper, the mall’s niche allows you to offer people something you can’t get anywhere else. And that’s an important lesson for retailers to survive in fragmented markets.

According to experts, the simple fact is that today, when shoppers have so many online options, it’s not enough to put inventory on the shelves, buy ads, and wait for people to appear. .. Physical retailers must find ways to offer value propositions and niches that give shoppers a reason to come out. Alternatives face the same fate as some of the retailers’ once most famous names — Kmart, RadioShack, Sears, Circuit City.

Many retailers use omni-channel strategies to reach customers in their preferred markets. Others are looking at hybrid models where customers buy online but receive products in stores. And some companies sell products that consumers can’t or don’t buy online.

Doug Stephens, founder of the website Retail Prophet, believes that “real stores will be used more and more as galleries, showrooms and event spaces.”

“We rely only on physical retail for items that require more physical consideration, such as the most convenient products and fresh produce,” in the National Retail Federation’s 2020 Hot 100 Retailers report. Stated.

Malfroid’s mall grew almost in parallel with e-commerce, but he doesn’t see it as a threat. He said that e-commerce and physical stores work together, and people who buy products online still want to pick them up, return them to the store, and see, feel, or touch them before. I believe there is. purchase. “There is a place for both, and I think people understand it,” says Malfroid.

“But we still believe we are working people. We want to go see each other. We want to go out and walk around, talk and share our experiences. I think. And you can’t do that online. ”

Despite headwinds, one mall remains strong as retailers struggle to find new conditions.Business observer

Source link Despite headwinds, one mall remains strong as retailers struggle to find new conditions.Business observer