How Small Retailers Can Make their Mark at the Mall

How Small Retailers Can Make their Mark at the Mall

Location is one of the most important decisions a retailer can make when opening a new store.  Choose a street that sees little foot traffic or a neighborhood that doesn’t resonate with your core customer and say goodbye to your dream. Big box retailers have teams dedicated to researching the best locations for their stores, not to mention established agreements with certain shopping center developments – luxuries that smaller retailers rarely have.  Maybe that’s why when we picture independent stores, we often think of Main St., not the mall. But the mall can be a great choice for specialty retailers, says Matthew Hudson, a retail consultant with Rick Segel and Associates.

As an expert in your category, you want to cultivate that expertise, which you can do through classes or seminars, Hudson explains. Customers might be more willing to check you out if your class is just one more thing they can do while at the mall, he adds. It’s also helpful to have the mall’s infrastructure at your disposal. By helping to regularly bring in customers, mall management should be willing to promote your event and offer you a space.

The idea that a mall is actually a lifestyle centre is important to keep in mind, even if your ultimate goal is drive sales in your own store.

“As a retailer, the amount of time that someone spends in my space is proportionate to their family’s meltdown,” Hudson says. By encouraging shoppers to explore the different activities offered at the mall, you’re making sure members of your customers’ family are appropriately occupied. That way, your customer will be in a better headspace to shop your wares and she will appreciate how in tune you are with her needs.

Mind Over Market

For Sarah Segal, the mall was the ideal spot for her latest venture, Squish, a gourmet candy store. After operating a pop-up on one of Montreal’s toniest shopping streets, she chose Carrefour Laval, one of Canada’s biggest shopping centers, as her first permanent outpost.

“The mall attracts a lot of families and Squish appeals to all age groups. Here, there is a high volume of traffic and a diverse clientele,” Segal says.


Squish’s crisp white walls, hot pink accents and neatly stacked jars of exotic gummies certainly help draw in the crowds. But so do staff members, who hand out free samples to passersby, likely triggering an impulse purchase or two.

“Everyone who comes to the mall wants to buy something, even if it’s a cookie or pretzel,” says Hudson. The $20 that’s burning a hole in their pocket is really up for grabs and if you can capture their minds, then it’s yours for the taking, he adds.

Street-level retailers are generally concerned with market share. But at the mall, mind share is what counts, which is why retailers need to make a lasting impression, he explains.

Hudson also suggests catering to the early risers – the mall walkers who venture indoors before stores officially open to escape the heat or seek refuge from the cold.

“You’re already there so why not open your doors and offer the mall walkers coffee or juice.” It’s an opportunity for them to get to know your store and for you to unlock an untapped market.

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