By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Dean, School of Business, American Public University
I have a new purpose for my local mall: It’s a place for me to walk during the winter months. As I began my journey to improve my fitness, I wanted to be indoors while getting some exercise. Some of my friends advised me that our local mall opened up at 7:00 a.m. for walkers.
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I noticed that there are a large number of people who walk in the mall in the morning hours. It’s almost like a new community. Some of the walkers are regulars and some come for a specific event.
However, many of these walkers have become acquaintances. It’s similar to another family or social network.
Who Typically Walks in Malls?
There are all types of people who choose to use the mall in the early morning hours. Some are individuals like myself who are interested in getting some exercise in before the start of the day.
Others are senior citizens looking for something to do or established groups wanting to do something together. I found out that many walkers finished their exercise by meeting up in the food court for social time. Many of the food businesses are open in the mornings, so there is an opportunity for them to do business.
How Do Mall Businesses Benefit from Early Morning Exercisers?
Mall businesses benefit from early morning exercisers, because walkers can be window shoppers. They either get shopping ideas from window displays or the displays encourage them to stick around until the stores are open.
One of the advantages that I have found with online shopping is that you can find out about advance sales if you are on their email lists. However, if you are walking in the mall, you have the opportunity to see unadvertised sales.
Alternative Uses for Shopping Malls
Although we saw a rise in store closings in 2019, there still can be a bright future for mall space, especially if an anchor store closes. That space can be used for other activities, such as a conference center, special events location, or a workspace for entrepreneurs and other professionals.
I also noticed two colleges with “sidewalk” billboards on the walkway in front of retail stores in shopping malls. That space can be used for “on-site” admissions/outreach offices; educational institutions could use this space to recruit students, community outreach or consumer interest/market survey.
These ideas are not off the mark as some businesses have already explored alternative uses of mall space. For example, Cirque du Soleil announced plans for a “family entertainment” concept inside a Toronto mall. The 24,000-square-foot space, called “CREACTIVE,” will be a circus-inspired playground with a range of activities from juggling to high-wire.
Shopping malls have to transform themselves by becoming a place that is more than the shopping experience. This development could help to counteract the business losses suffered when more consumers shop from online stores.
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Dean of the School of Business at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and influential leader, manifesting people skills, a systematic approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.