MUSIC TO THEIR EARS: Black Friday foot traffic at Warwick Mall was brisk, with retailers including FYE offering promotions attempting to lure shoppers.
PBN PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE
WHAT’S IN STORE: Megan Brasil, left, and Keanna MacKey shop at Elite Ideas Trading in the Warwick Mall late last month. Foot traffic at the mall was “extraordinarily heavy” for the holiday-shopping kickoff, according to the mall’s co-managing partner.
Once an online-only venture, Diamond Legends, a sports memorabilia and apparel store at the Warwick Mall, is now located close to Nordstrom Rack – and closer to the shopper its owner covets.
“Nordstrom brings in the right clientele for us here,” said store President Joe Parenti, “that female, [age] 18 to whatever, who’s buying for the boyfriend, the husband.”
Though malls dating back to the 1970s in Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts struggled during the Great Recession and, in Warwick during the 2010 floods, the number of vacancies at the Rhode Island malls has dropped, according to the Rhode Island Retail Federation.
And despite some mixed sales results on Black Friday, continued economic challenges in the Northeast have not prevented local mall retailers from feeding off each other’s success and enjoying a busy kickoff to the holiday season, say mall owners, developers and marketing managers.
Whether the strong kickoff can be sustained through the holiday season and beyond remains to be seen, acknowledges Aram G. Garabedian, co-managing partner for the Warwick Mall.
While foot traffic was “extraordinarily heavy,” he said, it is still too early to get a sense of sales year over year, and regardless, that is not data his retailers are likely to share. But shoppers, he said, are an unpredictable lot.
“The only thing we can do is have a mall that’s clean, exciting, comfortable and decorative,” Garabedian said. “You hope to have a good variety of stores working hard getting customers, and if the weather works with you and shoppers are [employed], that’s what adds to the success.”
Garabedian, along with marketing managers at the Providence Place mall; Emerald Square, a Simon Properties mall in North Attleboro; and Swansea Mall in Swansea, have a variety of strategies in place to keep shoppers coming back, particularly at the height of the holiday shopping season. Chief among these is the convenience of locating large anchor stores like Macy’s and Wal-Mart near smaller chains or privately owned shops.
Trends include hosting activities, comfortable seating, attracting new retail outlets and restaurants, and including some service tenants in the retail mix, mall managers say.
The Warwick Mall, which owners rebuilt following the 2010 floods, now includes a wing with Nordstrom Rack, Diamond Legends and other stores, and boasts a 90 percent occupancy rate, Garabedian said. Two new restaurants are also on the way: Buffalo Wild Wings near the food court next year and Not Your Average Joe’s restaurant outside the mall, sometime this month.