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Mall Owners Respond To Demand For Experiences



Indoor climbing walls are moving into a shopping centers and becoming a hit with visitors.
The shift in consumer buying habits has led many retailers to close the doors of unprofitable locations, and that presents a dilemma for mall and shopping center owners. What do they do with all of that vacant space? As Bloomberg reports, the ones that are ahead of the curve are giving the consumers what they want.

As more and more retail business is contracted online, consumers that used to spend their leisure time browsing through stores and doing physical shopping are looking for a new outlet to fill that void. That’s led to a rise in demand for ‘experiences,’ as in engaging activities that can serve two purposes. On the consumer side, it simply provides them with something to do that they can’t replicate on line. For property owners, the experiences can attract more foot traffic, which may just prompt those visitors to spend money elsewhere in the center or mall.

In Salt Lake City, one strip mall used to be anchored by a Smith’s supermarket that has since vacated the premises. In its place has risen a climbing gym from Momentum Indoor Climbing. The attraction has been a hit with visitors, who enjoy the attractions such as a towering climbing wall that can accommodate dozens of visitors at a time.

Indoor Climbing Wall

“Until Amazon invents a way to go rock climbing online, we are not going to be at risk of becoming a short-lived tenant for these landlords,” says Momentum CEO Jeff Pederson. 

Pederson’s point perfectly alliterates the crux of the current environment for property owners. When the right experience is offered, much-desired foot traffic can still be driven to a location. Consumers still want to get out of the house and engage with businesses, it’s just that the former popular pastime of browsing and shopping has been replaced by the desire for experiences.

“Folks get a little too caught up in the stereotype of what a mall is. Malls were built for people to do things that they have an interest in doing,” explains ICSC president and CEO Tom McGee.

To that end, things that will attract people no matter the circumstance – think medical clinics, gyms, grocery stores, restaurants – remain incredibly viable alternatives to occupy spaces that used to be packed to the brim with retailers. Property owners that are cognizant of this fact will continue to stay ahead of the curve, while others that cling to the past will continue to head towards ghost town status. 

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