Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Profitably Managing Santa

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Profitably Managing Santa

Article excerpt

He may make all the world's toys at the North Pole with the magic help of elves, but when Santa comes to the mall he needs the kind of help MBA's provide.

The chance to tell Santa what you want and pose for a photo with him is a delight to thousands of youngsters each year. What tykes don't know is that for Santa's role in shopping-center marketing to be effective, he must be carefully managed.

Properly conducted, the Santa business can be lucrative. "It's a huge market for Santas," said Bob Riggs, president of Santa Plus of St. Peters, Mo. Santa Plus provides Santas for 300 shopping centers around the nation and 20 around New York. Santa's role in a mall, where he is most often found these days, is to focus Christmas activity in one central location, Riggs said. Central positioning helps lure shoppers out of the larger destination stores and into the rest of the mall. On their way to Santa, shoppers will pass all the little mall stores they might not otherwise have seen. Santa, by the way, must also be highly visible, Riggs said. Children cannot or do not read signs well. If they are to insist on a visit, they must be able to see him. A good Santa encourages loyalty to a shopping center, Riggs said. Children identify most with the Santa they speak to. A particularly good experience will motivate the child to come back next year to the same mall to see the same Santa. "The shopping center is after that loyalty," he said. Gina Mintzer, marketing director at Crossgates Mall in Albany, N.Y., said in nine years in the mall business she has never worked in or heard of a mall without a Santa. Crossgates uses a local company, Capital Photo of Clifton Park, for its Santas. The one year the mall did not use Capital, 1994, customers asked for the mall to bring the company back. Colonie Center has changed companies from time to time, but it too has favorite Santas, which it requires new contractors to use, said mall manager David Mattison. …

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