Simon Malls Dress Up to Entice Adults

'Fashion Now' Events Designed to Please Tenants, not Just Shoppers

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NEW YORK ( -- With the economy weakening and retail closures on the rise, malls are looking for ways to attract customers and keep tenants happy. This month, Simon Property Group, which operates nearly 400 malls worldwide, is rolling out a new program called "Fashion Now" that aims to do both.
'Fashion Now' showcases products that are immediately available to shoppers in an effort to drive sales.
'Fashion Now' showcases products that are immediately available to shoppers in an effort to drive sales.

The program targets men and women over the age of 30 and includes a number of luxury retailers, a departure from the company's typically teen-oriented events. "Fashion Now" also showcases products that are immediately available to shoppers in an effort to drive sales.

A welcome move
"It strikes me as an excellent idea, especially in today's environment," said Michael Niemira, director-research at the International Council of Shopping Centers. "Anything you can do on the marketing side to excite and encourage the consumer is really the way to go," he said. "It may be copied by others in short order."

Shari Simon, senior VP-corporate marketing at the mall operator, said the rollout of "Fashion Now" is timely, given that in a tough economy it's important to promote tenants and the malls themselves as effectively as possible.

Indeed, keeping tenants happy and competing for new ones is becoming more challenging. An oversupply of malls is enabling tenants to be picky, and stressed retailers are closing stores at a pace not seen since 2001. According to the ICSC, retail square footage has increased an average of 31% per year since 2004 at super-regional malls and 21% per year at regional malls. Retail closures, meanwhile, are expected to rise 7% over last year, the largest increase in more than a decade.

"When [retailers] see that the mall owner is very active in helping tenants do business and do better business, it's a way to create a draw for newer, fresher tenants," said Erin Herskowitz, a spokeswoman for the ICSC. "When the tenant does well, the center does well."

Not for the bubblegum crowd
"Fashion Now" includes cocktail events, as well as demonstrations and sampling by retailers such as The Art of Shaving. But the centerpiece is a series of runway shows. The shows, which can be sponsored by one mall anchor or a group of seven to 10 specialty retailers, feature in-season merchandise. Participants in the events include both moderately priced retailers and department stores like Macy's, Nordstrom, Kenneth Cole and The Limited, as well as high-end players such as Brooks Brothers, Carolina Herrera, Jimmy Choo and Fendi. The retailers do not pay a fee for their inclusion and are able to provide promotional materials highlighting their looks.

Ms. Simon said "Fashion Now" differs from what she calls "one-off, one-time" events by focusing on solidifying relationships between customers and retailers. It is also the first significant program targeting adults, said Ms. Simon. The company has long targeted kids, tweens and teens with programs such as Kidgits Club and dTour Live, a concert series.
Fashion Now ad

In addition to radio and cable TV spots, Simon Property Group will be advertising in local and regional newspapers and magazines.

"The teens are the bulk of our consumers. They have great spending power," Ms. Simon said. "They are the core of our target market, but it's important that someone pays attention to [adults] too."

Ms. Simon added that the inclusion of designers more readily found in off-mall boutiques serves as a reminder to luxury customers that the labels are also found at traditional malls.

"We're reaching a wide audience from women in higher-income brackets to a more mid-level income and also men, which is an important segment that continues to grow in the fashion community," said Jacque Ellis, assistant VP-corporate and special events. "Being fashionable is something that translates in all communities, to all income levels."

To promote the program, Simon will be advertising on radio and cable TV, as well as local and regional newspapers and magazines. Simon's OnSpot digital network will also be utilized. OptiMedia, Indianapolis, is handling media, while Nogginwerks, Indianapolis, is handling creative duties. According to TNS Media Intelligence, the company's measured media spending has gradually increased over the last few years. In 2007, Simon spent $26.4 million.

"We took from the marketing funds quite a bit of money to do this that wasn't included in '07," said Ms. Simon. "It's a significant amount of money, and we think it's been very well spent."
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