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Top-Tier Mall Operators Overcome Challenges Through Reinvention

The COVID-19 pandemic was widely expected to finish off the shopping mall. It didn’t. Although indoor malls, open-air lifestyle centers and outlet malls continue to face real challenges, a new whitepaper from Placer.ai demonstrates how forward-thinking operators are overcoming them. 

“While they may no longer play the central role they once did in Americans’ shopping routines, malls still serve as indoor community hubs where friends and family can come together for diverse food, shops, and entertainment options,” the whitepaper states. “This could explain why top-tier malls keep on coming back despite the seemingly constant obstacles.” 

One secret to mall operators’ resilience is reinvention. Placer.ai cites the example of real estate investment firm Centennial, which operates many malls and mixed-use centers. In September 2020, as the pandemic continued to hang heavy over daily life, Centennial introduced a chain-wide omnichannel platform called Shop Now!. The app allows consumers to shop across all Centennial malls in a manner comparable to shopping on Amazon. 

The program’s first phase, which launched in October 2020, allowed users to browse an AI-powered search engine connected to the inventory of all the stores operating in their mall of interest. “In February 2022, Centennial debuted phase two of the program at its Santa Ana, CA based MainPlace Mall,” according to the whitepaper. “It allows customers to consolidate orders from several stores into a single cart, get the order fulfilled by personal shoppers, and have the orders ready for same-day delivery or on-site pickup.” 

This could have detracted from physically going to the mall, Placer.ai points out. Instead, the program has increased both monthly and loyal visitors.

“In the months following the launch of the second phase, MainPlace Mall saw its loyal visits increase by 5% (from 46.2% in February ‘22 to 51.3% in June ‘22), while overall monthly visits in April ‘22 increased by 5.5% when compared to 2019,” according to the whitepaper. 

Click here to access the complete whitepaper. 

Pictured: Centennial’s MainPlace Mall.

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About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).

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