Black Friday will officially start very early again at the Chandler Fashion Center this year.
Christina Lanoue, CSM Senior Manager of Property Management at the mall, told a Chandler Chamber of Commerce Economic Update audience Wednesday that Macy’s will be opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day to kick off Black Friday. Sears opened at that time last year and reportedly had good success. Lanoue said she expects she will hear very soon whether other anchor stores in the mall will also open earlier than midnight.
The interior of the mall will open at midnight to let early bargain hunters find those stores that are offering great buys for what has become the biggest shopping day of the year.
Lanoue said that since the mall was opened in 2001 “we consider ourselves the economic engine and heart of the community.”
The mall has been undergoing much change since the expiration of the original 10-year term of leases since it opened. Of the 630,000 square feet of space at the mall, approximately 350,000 square feet have been right sized, remodeled or have new stores in the past 18 months.
Lanoue said some of the new stores this fall include Boston Proper, Shoe Palace, Crazy Eight and Free People.
Most of the stores that are gone were not asked to renew their leases so that some hot new retailers could enter the mall.
“Through the leasing expirations we were able to bring in some ‘game changing’ retailers,” Lanoue said.
Among those she mentioned were Lululemon, Francesca’s, Art of Shaving, Lush, Vera Bradley, Michael Kors, Johnny Rockets, Pandora and H&M.
Although the Chandler Fashion Center’s core shopper is still 35-54 years old, recent research shows the mall has a strong teen influence. Teen spending is driven more by the celebrities they admire. And teens show less store loyalty and are more influenced by what is fashionably a hot trend at the moment. In other words, price on an item that is hot is more important than where they buy.
She said more retailers are finding more ways to connect with shoppers. One of those has been engaging shoppers with Hollywood icons in advertising. Another has been aggressive customer loyalty programs.
The mall also has its own Shopper Reward Program. She said shoppers are rewarded for every $250 spent in one day at the mall when they take receipts to Guest Services. There are also rewards at higher spending levels within a month as well as at restaurants in the mall.
“The gifts offered as rewards change quarterly but range from gift cards to Coach products to movie tickets,” she said.
A funny moment about retail changes was her comment that some stores are using mirrors in fitting rooms “that make us all look skinny in a bathing suit.”
She also reminded the men in the room that they had 91 days from this past Wednesday to Christmas shop.
“We don’t want to see you on Christmas Eve,” said Lanoue.
Another speaker at the Chandler Chamber of Commerce event reported that retail vacancy rates throughout Chandler are improving.
Jim Smith, economic development specialist for the City of Chandler, said the vacancy rate has improved to 12.7 percent, down from 14.1 percent two years ago.
With 30 big box vacancies during the recession, he said Chandler suffered more than some other areas of the valley but seems now to be rebounding quicker. For example, there has been 52,000 feet of new restaurant space in the past year.
Office space in Chandler is tight as it has become a very popular place for office jobs, said Christine Mackay, director of economic development for the city. She said office vacancy rates have fallen to 4 percent.
She said in 2008 there were 101,000 jobs in Chandler. Despite the recession, Chandler now has 122,000 jobs.
“The last 15 months have been absolutely crazy,” Mackay said.