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At one time, the local mall was the site for not just shopping but also socializing. Today though, customers spend an average of only 44 minutes per trip to the mall. It appears that even with the broad variety of stores available, consumers visit these shopping destinations to accomplish a specific mission, rather than enjoying the mall atmosphere.

For mall operators and tenants, this trend is not good news. To increase customers’ interest, modern malls are mixing up their tenant placement, so customers are not bored by seeing another Victoria’s Secret next to yet another Abercrombie & Fitch in just another mall.

They also are looking to the malls that continue to attract customers as examples to follow. One mall in Atlanta increased the time customers spend per trip from 63 to 106 minutes in the past two years, mainly by offering special events—beyond pictures with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus—to give customers more to do than spend money in traditional retailers.

Other operators are considering ways to integrate social media into the mall, in response to consumer demand. People would prefer to communicate over their smartphone rather than with a sales associate. They also find online interactions entertaining, so a mall environment that hopes to entertain them might promise big screen televisions that host Twitter feeds.

These attractions are especially needed as customers work to avoid places that might tempt them to spend more. Up to 60 percent of shoppers acknowledge this motivation. Such customers often prefer big box stores, which allow them to research their purchases and then visit the store on a targeted mission to buy just the item they have already chosen.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why are shopping malls seeing reduced traffic and shorter visit durations? 
  2. Think about how you shop in a mall. Are you entertained in the shopping environment?

Steve McLinden, “A Matter of Time,” SCT, September 2011.

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