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[15 comments]

Rejuvenation Stations, Other Perks Await Black Friday Shoppers

November 20, 2012

With many shoppers avoiding Black Friday chaos, many malls are rolling out the welcome mat by adding amenities such as valet parking, free refreshments and relaxation lounges.

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the testing comes as malls recognize people unable to stand the Black Friday bustle tend to be bigger spenders and spend more regularly throughout the year. Malls are increasingly losing the holiday spend to the ease of internet shopping and so they are seeking ways to stimulate visits that often lead to incremental purchases.

"People tend to make more impulse and inspired purchases in person, especially if they've been made to feel like a first-class shopper," Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University, told the Journal.

Many perks focus on solving the hassle of holiday shopping. Some are adding free package-holding services, coat check areas and child care centers. At Simon Property Group's 160 regional malls, security officers will carry shoppers' bags to their car on Black Friday and during weekends over the holiday season. Some traditional malls are adding valet parking previously only seen at high-end centers. South Hill Mall in Pullayup, WA, is offering a free shuttle service to take shoppers from their cars.

Others amenities help shopper's decompress. "Rejuvenation stations" are being set up across several malls offering free coffee and snacks, Wi-Fi access, device-charging stations and places to sit. Some malls are said to be adding massages and gift-wrapping.

Still, another host of amenities — some new and some extended from prior years — directly address the Black Friday crowd. Forest City's malls will hand out "survival kits" of water, energy bars and coffee gift cards to those arriving before Black Friday starts.

At Summit Mall in Fairlawn, OH, the first 250 people to register their e-mail address at guest services will receive a "swag bag" of food samples, Diet Coke, water and store coupons, according to the Akron Business Journal. Sam's Club and Fred Meyer are offering free breakfast to early Black Friday risers.

FINANCIALS:     [NYSE:SPG] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

What steps being taken by malls and merchants are most likely to create the desired effect of increased traffic and sales on Black Friday? Which perks mentioned in the article do you think should be extended beyond the holidays?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Which of the perks mentioned in the article do you think will drive the greatest return on investment for malls and merchants?

Comments:

This is an interesting phenomenon. It seems to me that this whole Thanksgiving madness (we can't call it Black Friday anymore, can we?) is becoming a two-tier economic program.

- An apparent boon for the economically challenged. I say "apparent" because I mostly feel like it's hucksterism at its worst.
- A real turn-off for those who are not economically challenged. Because it creates chaos and unpleasant shopping conditions.

I've beseeched retailers in any bully (and not so bully) pulpit I have. Please stop the madness. They're not stopping, and the poor are buying it. Me, I can wait, or buy online. Perks are fine. Massive crowds are not.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

First of all, let me agree wholeheartedly with Paula. Black Friday? Talk about your nation of sheep! Can anyone seriously think that an "event" that requires shoppers receive continual first aid to complete is a good idea? Look ... we've had people killed because of this. It's mass hysteria at its commercial worst. Whatever happened to the idea that shopping should be something other than a full contact, competitive blood sport?

Put me in the camp that says it's better to do -- as in holiday community service -- than it is to buy.

And Paula is right -- stop the insanity.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

The valet idea is a good one, especially if the shopper has children -- better than walking a mile with the kids. But the 900 lb gorilla in the room (aka The Internet) is bound to slowly and surely take bigger and bigger bites out of the "joys" of Black Friday shopping.

FWIW: my wife and I, both former retailers, would never go out on Black Friday. Why? We take the kids bowling; a much better experience. Besides, price isn't everything and you get great prices online as well at this time of year.

Bottom line is, the physical retail experience has to get better ALL YEAR ROUND in order to keep people touching the brand, so I'd like to see a step up regardless of time of year: better service, more interactivity, interesting displays, amenities (why can't stores do what malls are doing?) and better atmosphere would all be good starting points. Give us a reason to visit!

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Lee Peterson, EVP Creative Services, WD Partners

So, we have come full circle: it's all about the shopping EXPERIENCE. Which is, by the way, what it should always have been about. These are all great ideas and I especially love the parking amenities and coat check for those unfortunate enough to live "up north."

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Al McClain, CEO, Founder, RetailWire.com

Anything that a mall can do to improve the parking lot hassles and security issues on Black Friday should help and should be highly publicized. This is the biggest deterrant I see for those shoppers who are "in the hunt" for bargains and who don't mind - maybe like? - the crowds inside.

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Dan Raftery, President, Raftery Resource Network Inc.

I am not a Black Friday or even a Black Friday weekend shopper. Why? Too many people and far too much madness. I don't want to fight for a parking space, a clerk's attention, the crowds, etc. To me the process is like a treasure hunt with far too few prizes being sought by far too many people.

For those who do want to participate, I would anticipate all of the various efforts to alleviate some of the Black Friday experience are welcomed. If I were to look for something that makes shopping better, I like the valet parking. Nordstrom has done it at one of the malls here in Chicago and it is a great service.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

Great ideas are sometimes created out of extreme or stressful situations. No doubt that holiday shopping is busier, faster paced, longer hours, etc. Different retailers and malls are doing what they can to enhance the experience.

Love the idea of the "Rejuvenation Station." But, why just for the holidays? People go to Starbucks for a cup of coffee -- and to hang out in the comfortable leather chairs. Maybe more people will come to the mall for a similar experience. More traffic in the mall is a good thing!

Security is always an issue. Security officers should always help people to their car. Carrying their bags is a nice touch!

Many of the ideas in the above article are great for the holidays, but why stop there? Especially when they cost very little, if anything, but enhance the customer's experience.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

To combat the online competition, malls should emphasize the "experience" of shopping locally.

Although I voted for the parking amenities as the top choice, I believe that a packaged approach to enhancing the shopping experience is the one that will yield best results.

The experience should begin curbside as consumers arrive at the mall, continue with in-store participation of enhanced service levels, and be topped off by mall sponsored services (the rejuvenation station) and events (music).

This season is the chance to capture customers for the rest of the year. Why not show them that the mall shopping experience has changed for the better and execute a packaged experience-driven shopping plan?

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Bill Hanifin, Managing Director, Hanifin Loyalty LLC

As most stable people do, I agree with Paula and add to this insight with a few "holiday" focused comments:
1. Black Friday is good because the neighbors I have that bother me on vacation days are not around.
2. Black Friday is even better because it forces some retailers to match low prices or beat the prices after the holidays...New TV for Tom in late December.
3. Black Friday is good because it gives Paula more time to shop for a gift online that she will send to me.

Happy shopping to all and see you online!

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Tom Redd, Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit

Paula is right. We have totally bought into the "Black Friday" phenomenon that has been created. And now it has been extended to take the holiday away from retail employees. My everlasting problem with this is those making the decision to open Thursday evening will be at home with their families while those without a voice are leaving for work.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

So we need special amenities to attract people (otherwise) scared off by the chaos created by...too many people? Yes, this reminds me of the old Yogi Berra line, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."

'notcom'

Obviously we have audiences who love and hate Black Friday and people with mixed feelings who might come if a pain point is met. Step 1, don't waste time on the haters, unless you want to use irony. Step 2, find the swing voter pain points (I am recalling the Best Buy 'busy mom on Black Friday' behavior segmentation and solution from years past -- hard to execute maybe, but interesting. Step 3, I would make it entertaining and safe for the folks who want to be in the mosh-pit. Let's get ready to rumble! Happy Thanksgiving.

Vahe Katros, Consultant, Plan B

How can anyone in retailing not go out on Black Friday and observe the biggest spectacle in retail history?!

I love to go out and watch consumers turned into zombies ravaging over door buster deals, standing in line, pulling items from shelves and also observe sales floor staff and how they handle the added pressure.

In addition, it helps to see on the ground floor what the mass customers are looking for and what's in demand. Notice who is using their smartphone or who is still using printed circulars and a handwritten list.

I for one will be out in the real world enjoying the perks and the most spectacular event for retailing.

Ed Dunn, Founder, (Stealth Operation)

Sounds like increased customer service to me...where has this been the rest of the year? Yes, these should be extended throughout the year by the malls in general. Mall traffic is down because they have forgotten who their customer is and what they want...service, service, service....

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Kai Clarke, President, Kowa Optimed, Inc.

The people who shop Black Friday do so specifically because of the "madness." Or because they are low-end consumers who are desperate to save a few bucks. Upscale shoppers or anyone who does not desire a madhouse shopping experience will not attend regardless of amenities or perks.

Retailers should focus on the logistics to enable those who need the deals or love the madness to attend with minimal pain. Give up on trying to lure others. It simply is not their preferred shopping experience.

Special VVIP shopping times in upscale retailers serve this purpose well.

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Mike Osorio, Senior VP Organizational Change Management, DFS Group

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