The Suburban “MAUL”

3 Jul

A T-Rex on a shopping spree

Things are looking up, albeit for the wrong reasons, but I’m not complaining. It’s apparent that the recession has forced many VMs to reinvent what we do. A little more than a year ago I was hired to merchandise a vacant Baby Gap store with products from other tenants in a somewhat high-end strip center. An ironic twist of fate I thought, that I should be merchandising empty retail space. As they say “Any port in a storm”. A year has passed and the same management company that hired me in the first place has offered me another opportunity. If you have any doubts that the suburban mall is in trouble,I have proof that it is. Lynne and I have just scored a distressing mother lode. A suburban mall in dire need of re-inventing. A 70’s vintage, tired and somewhat faded temple to optimistic consumerism. The marketing plan is exactly as stated in the article I have provided the link to below[be sure to read it as well] Our task is to disguise the 30…YES!… 30 empty spaces with display based on 3 premises, 1. “Back to School” [ my least favorite theme of all time] 2.”The Fun of Shopping” with community tie ins [nothing new about that] and 3. This one I really like! Management has scored a Dinosaur museum, yes you heard me right. animatronic Raptors and T-Rexes reeking havoc, to the screams of terrified children. This is a theme I can really sink my teeth into,or should I say a theme of sinking teeth into others. My only regret is that I’m sure management will not let us take this to the bloody extreme that I envision. I don’t think I have to explain the irony of dinosaurs cavorting about within a larger dinosaur of a mall, talk about a MAUL of epic proportions. A Jurassic “walk and get eaten” I love it. Times sure do change and although this is not being chosen by Barney’s to succeed Simon Doonan, it’s a job and we are fortunate that “Display” is still a necessary element in all retail,even under the most adverse conditions.

I have re-posted my thoughts from a year ago below. It’s always interesting to look back at your opinions on the birth of a burgeoning trend. In this case the end of retail as we knew it.

April 16 2010 I wrote;

As I have stated before out of adversity comes opportunity. I have recently been acquiring work, a common occurrence this time of year it is after all spring and a chance for retailers to come on strong with fresh products to tempt you a take that winter weary plastic out for a walk. The difference this year is that I have been hired by a real estate management company. In case you have not noticed a good many retail strip centers have faced a high rate of vacancies. In the world of commercial real estate there is NOTHING more disastrous than a number of missing teeth in the happy retail smile of your local strip center. Full centers create curb appeal and keep the remaining tenants from complaining and paying rent. All of this has caused frenzy among rental agents and on site management. In the 80s and 90s they could turn away prospective tenants if they did not meet “our strict design criteria” not so any longer. While in a local management office, comfortably seated in a waiting area smartly furnished with Ikea, [the recession’s favorite decorator] I over heard talk of “Build out allowance” unheard of a few years ago, for those of you who do not know what a build out allowance is, read the following “We will pay to build it if you sign a 5 year lease” that’s how desperate they are. I have been hired to fill vacant stores with existing tenant’s merchandise. This is not a new idea, [at least not in my age bracket] but to those 30 something agents it’s a brilliant new concept, and I whole heartedly agree with them.Far be it from me to disagree,I need the work,but I can’t help but reflect upon the irony of this. Here I am a 35 year veteran of high-end display and store planning, filling empty spaces with false commerce to perpetuate the illusion of affluence. I could say it’s my little contribution to re-establishing consumer confidence, but I don’t really believe that. I must admit that even I am surprised at this silver lining in these very cloudy skies.

What the Malls won’t Tell You


One Response to “The Suburban “MAUL””

  1. Anonymous July 8, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    Theatre comes to life for unwary shoppers! Gotta love it!

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