Mark Twain once famously quipped “reports of my death were greatly exaggerated,” and the same can be said for brick-and-mortar retail according to the most recent U.S. Census data, which reports that only 8.3 percent of retail business is transacted online. And while that number is expected to rise and e-commerce will continue to compete with brick-and-mortar retail, the most frequent cause of the decline of some shopping malls is attributed to none other than competition from other, newer malls according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal article reports that, “in recent years, [property owners] have started shaking up their tenant mix more radically, moving away from full-price apparel brands and toward entertainment and food offerings.” That’s exactly what mall owner GGP is doing to insulate itself from competition from both other malls and from e-commerce. GGP is actively making its malls “Amazon proof” by expanding its experience offerings and, in some cases, adding kid-oriented amusement options. The company just announcement it is bringing the retailer KidZania into some of its United States retail properties. Mexico-City-based KidZania currently has 20 locations around the world, with at least five new locations opening soon, including the new U.S. locations.
Currently, GGP owns 127 retail properties totaling 121 million square feet of retail in 40 states, and GGP’s CEO Sandeep Mathrani revealed on CNBC that the company is putting KidZania into two of its best-performing malls in Chicago and in the Dallas metro area. As Manthrani noted in the interview, GGP buys out the leases of underperforming retailers in order to place an option like KidZania into the malls, which ultimately brings more people and a different element to the mall.
KidZania allows children between the ages of four and 12 to enjoy an indoor theme park that functions as a built-to-scale (for children) city with buildings, paved streets, vehicles and destinations that are sponsored and branded by KidZania partners, including Cartoon Network, Dell, Walmart, Dunkin Donuts, Coca Cola, Chevrolet and American Airlines. Children participate by being members of the community, role-playing for approximately 100 roles, such as doctor, police officer, dentist, restauranteur and shopper. A child can choose to work a job for KidZos currency or use the currency to shop or be entertained. This type of activity provides children and their parents a safe, unique and realistic educational environment and experience. Trained adults, Zupervisors, guide the participants throughout the experience.
“This retailer brings people to retail centers and keeps them coming back because it is a rewarding and educational experience for the kids,” HFF Managing Director Bryan Ley explains. “Parents are always looking for things to do with their kids, and if they can now go to the mall and also provide an educational, entertainment experience for their children, they will pay for it. KidZania seems to be a big draw to the top malls globally, and their introduction to the United States should be interesting to watch.”
KidZania is one way to grow an entertainment option, especially when build-out space required at each KidZania location is extensive and likely to fit abandoned anchor tenant space. Other entertainment-oriented retailers include trampoline parks and the Crayola Experience in addition to more teen- and adult-oriented entertainment options like NYZ Apocalypse, which is billed as “year-round immersive theater” that combines laser tag with the zombie apocalypse, and iFly Indoor Skydiving. However property owners decide to retain and attract shoppers, the experience trend is going strong.
By Kimberly Steele, digital content/public relations specialist