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I recently had the pleasure of touring Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, one of the first enclosed malls in the Northeast United States. Measuring 1.35 million sq. ft., the mall has nearly 12 million visitors annually. The visit shed light on how malls are changing to support retailers in a rapidly evolving brick-and-mortar retail environment. Cherry Hill Mall is continuing to renovate its interiors, introducing a loyalty program and a mobile app, and hosting events to help drive traffic. Additionally, it is also offering strategic leasing opportunities for its retail partners.
Cherry Hill Mall continues to renovate its interior to help create a more modern and relevant shopping experience. The mall originally opened in October 1961 and has since evolved significantly. It has been one of the leaders in offering new customer amenities, including a family rest room in 1995. Today, the mall is equipped with new escalators and elevators, modern tiles, horizontal ceiling planes and new lighting, all of which seek to provide a more pleasant shopping experience. Other amenities include carpeted seating areas and valet parking. Furthermore, the mall offers central Wi-Fi for all customers as of 2014, as well as a phone charging station, both of which encourage shoppers to extend their stays at the mall.
In June 2016, Cherry Hill Mall launched its own loyalty program, PREIT Perks. Shoppers can register for a membership using one of their existing credit cards (the program does not require customers to open a new credit card to participate). For every US$250 spent, shoppers receive US$10 in Rewards Cash credit that they can redeem later. The program does not compete with loyalty programs offered by its retail partners, and shoppers can earn points through multiple programs for each of their transactions.
In addition to monetary benefits, the loyalty program offers additional exclusive members-only benefits, including access to a personal shopper and free gift wrapping during holiday seasons. According to Lisa Wolstromer, Senior Marketing Director of Cherry Hill Mall, there are approximately 1,500 PREIT Perks members so far, and the organization is continuing to innovate to incentivize shoppers to participate in the program. For example, the organization is considering offering parking benefits to select loyalty members.
Cherry Hill Mall regularly hosts a wide range of events that help drive traffic to its retail partners’ stores. Leveraging its network of nearly a dozen restaurants, the mall annually hosts the PREIT Restaurant Week. Additionally, the mall hosts a variety of community-based events, some in partnership with its retail partners, such as “American Girl Easter Cupcake Party” in partnership with William Sonoma. Hosting events that cater to families with younger children in particular helps attract additional traffic to the mall and encourages purchases from its retail partners while providing a more experience-based shopping environment.
As the device that shoppers are always connected to, mobile continues to have a significant influence on retail sales, both online and offline. An increasing number of shoppers are referring to their mobile devices for in-store purchases, and Cherry Hill Mall seeks to leverage the mobile habits of hyperconnected shoppers by having its own mobile app, PREIT Malls Mobile App. The app offers a range of features, such as parking reminders with audio note and photo option, a list of stores, information on the latest mall events, and more.
However, with limited space for apps on customers’ mobile devices, retailers are competing both with each other as well as with companies in other industries to create apps that are valuable enough to remain on shoppers’ devices. Unless the app is regularly used, it will likely be removed from shopper’s devices. Cherry Hill Mall, therefore, will need to continue to innovate to offer additional value-creating features on its app.
The center continues to look for tenants, nationally and internationally, to help differentiate it from its competition. In addition to supporting its retail partners by helping drive traffic, Cherry Hill Mall also seeks to help its retail partners succeed by offering more flexible leasing options. The option to choose a shorter lease (two years or less) for a store front at Cherry Hill Mallenables retailers (particularly those operating smaller businesses) to start selling at the mall while bearing relatively lower risks.
As brick-and-mortar retail continues to evolve rapidly, mall operators, including Cherry Hill Mall, are recognizing the need to coordinate more closely with their retail partners to drive traffic and meet modern shopper demands. They are rethinking their business models and their roles in supporting retailers, and innovation in this space will continue.