I was intrigued reading a recent Letter to the Editor from a Northern Westchesterite who had several suggestions for how a local shopping mall could up its game. The letter offered a sampling of stores the mall would be wise, in the reader’s estimation, to attract as tenants.
A shoe repair kiosk, for example, makes a lot of sense. I second that one. Also mentioned were a beauty salon (apparently there’s a shortage of those), a pharmacy (which left the mall because of soft business), a movie theater (which left the mall because of soft business), and L.L. Bean (which has a total of 55 stores in the U.S., with six of those in all of New York state, the nearest being Yonkers).
My eye came to a screeching halt at the writer’s request for an Apple Store. Now we’re talking! I am an Apple customer to the core. Like the writer, I too wish I didn’t have to trek to White Plains or Danbury to overpay for Apple products. Why can’t I overpay for them closer to home?
I decided to do some digging, digitally speaking, so online I went. What I discovered is someone with direct experience trying to woo an Apple Store to his town.
The head of the Business Improvement District (BID) in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown told the website MarketWatch, “When it comes to landing an Apple Store, you don’t call them, they call you.”
Georgetown luckily became the apple of Apple’s eye because it has a lot of juice: a critical mass of college students (with two major universities nearby), a wealthy population, and a large Millennial cohort.
How do those demographics square with prospects of an Apple Store opening in northern Westchester any time soon? Decide for yourself.
However, a clue may be knowing where Whole Foods (now owned by Amazon), likes to place its stores. Why? It’s fair to say Whole Foods and Apple Stores cater to relatively analogous target audiences, as far as key metrics like disposable income.
In the case of Whole Foods, the research indicates that its site selection process favors areas where average household income is a minimum $150,000. That would explain why there’s a new Whole Foods in Chappaqua, where the average household income is $220,000.
Meanwhile, back at the mall—while snooping around online for the above insights, I bumped into the future.
According to a study published by management consultancy A.T. Kearney, there are four distinct “visions” that shopping centers are poised to evolve into during the next decade…
- Destination Centers – in this scenario, supplanting anchor stores (think Sears) will be experiences akin to an indoor ski slope, concert space, or immersive virtual reality. One such mall concept, called American Dream Meadowlands, is scheduled to open next month in East Rutherford, N.J. More than half of its 3 million square feet—making it the third largest mall in America—is devoted to entertainment, and the remainder to retail.
- Innovation Centers – these experimental models will be run by social scientists, such as anthropologists, who will monitor and give real-time feedback on shoppers’ in-store activities to retail tenants. Shoppers can try new technologies, consult with experts, and take surveys to receive discounts.
- Values Centers – focusing on causes such as animal rights or on a communal theme, such as artisanal dining and take-out, a prime example of this vision is the emergence of food halls, such as Eataly in Manhattan.
- “Retaildential” Spaces – these so-called “life-stage centers” incorporate retail, experiences, and services in a residential setting to focus on a specific consumer group, be it young urban hipsters or retirees. In the latter example, residents would have immediate access on premises to medical services, pharmacies, fitness centers, legal services, financial planning, and community rooms. Japan’s Aeon Corp. is exploring this model.
In other words, malls no longer are defined by what we think of as traditional stores.
I not only trust our local shopping mall managers to be fully aware of that reality; I know for a fact that they are hard at work doing something to confront it head-on. They get it, even if not every shopper does.
It’s all well and good to write Letters to the Editor offering suggestions to the local mall for which retail businesses you want to patronize there. We live in a participatory democracy, after all, so feel free to vote with your wallet.
Also feel free, before you jump to judgment, to jump online, to research and learn. The world out there is changing rapidly. Unearthing new information might also change your understanding and your expectations.
Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.