Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Malls, Stores Urged to Embrace Change

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Malls, Stores Urged to Embrace Change

Article excerpt

The malls and department stores that shaped North Jersey and suburbs across the nation can survive, but they need to embrace change, rather than stand by as the world changes around them, retail executives and experts said Tuesday at the Retail Marketing Society's "Reinventing the Store" conference.

The event, held at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, drew more than 100 retail professionals and included upbeat presentations by retailers large and small about innovations they have adopted, as well as a sobering warning by retail guru Paco Underhill that the American shopping mall "is deeply, deeply troubled."

Most U.S. shopping centers date back to the 1970s, Underhill said, a time when developers were opening an average of 250 shopping malls every year, "and most of them were butt-ugly the day they opened." Underhill is chief executive and founder of Envirosell, which studies shopper behavior and advises retailers. He also is the author of "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping" and "The Call of the Mall."

Smart developers around the world are now building projects that Underhill calls "alls" - mixed-use projects that combine apartments, hotels, dining and retail, and that give people reasons to come there other than shopping.

At The Grove shopping center in Los Angeles, Underhill noted, a grassy strip in the middle of the center has become the city's most popular play space for toddlers, drawing stroller moms and dads by the scores. But most of the examples of cutting-edge mall development these days are found outside of the United States, in places such as Dubai or Istanbul, he said.

"A-list" malls -- large premium properties such as Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus -- "are doing fine" and give consumers multiple reasons to go there. But there are many outdated "B and C" shopping centers around the country that "are crying to be redeveloped as 'alls,' " Underhill said.

Two of the retail executives, Tony Spring, the CEO of Bloomingdale's, and Jeffery Sears, chief executive and co-founder of luxury appliance store Pirch, spoke about their new ways of doing business. …

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