Shopping mall operator repurposes old department stores into Kidzania’s playgrounds.As we all know by now, the days of huge anchor stores being a huge draw for mall shoppers are a thing of the past. Consumer preferences are changing, and legacy retailers such as JCPenney, Macy’s and Sears are continuing to come to terms with that fact. All three of those behemoths keep shuffling the decks to get to a store count that will help them stop the bleeding, and that’s led to a ton of space to open up at malls and shopping centers across the country.
Proactive landlords continue to be ahead of the curve on that front, and many have taken to reconfiguring those large spaces into something else entirely. Some have renovated the spaces completely to accommodate several retailers that may require smaller footprints within that same space. Others are going in another direction entirely, and are looking towards what’s known as experiential activities to bring people in. As Bloomberg shares, General Growth Properties has fallen into that camp, and one of their new areas of focus is one worth watching.
GGP has become enthralled with a concept known as KidZania, and it’s easy to see why. While traveling in Dubai, US head Sandeep Mathrani came across the idea in the massive Dubai Mall. Smack dab in the center was a kid-themed activity center that was filled with all sorts of child-sized spaces such as restaurants, bakeries, shops and hospitals in a role-playing environment. The place was packed, and GGP is working towards bringing the concept to our shores.
“The country is over-retailed. The biggest advantage we can have is to recapture department stores and repurpose them,” Mathrani says.
To that end, the company has reacquired more than 100 of its stores over the past few years, and there’s a good chance that number will grow as department store footprints continue to shrink. GGP plans to open a KidZania Dallas next year, one in Chicago in 2019, and as many as 20 more across the country over the next decade.
KidZania is an incredibly intriguing concept that other landlords and property owners can draw some inspiration from. Experiential activities are a fantastic way to boost traffic counts across malls and centers, and that amounts to a win-win for property owners and tenants alike.
“The landlords want to bring some tenant into that space that will improve the overall quality of the mall and the traffic flow into the mall. They’re setting about trying to find the nontraditional retailers to fill that space and accomplish what the department stores historically accomplished,” says Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jeffrey Langbaum.