Mall executives add retailers to match consumer trends

Cottonwood Mall has seen changes in some of the types of retailers it houses in recent years.
(Courtesy Photo)

ALBUQUERQUE — Cottonwood Mall leaders are targeting “Amazon-proof” businesses to draw in more shoppers.

Retail Solutions Assistant Vice Presidents Austin Tidwell and Daniel Kearney discussed their strategy recently.

Washington Prime Group — the company that owns Cottonwood Mall — brought on Retail Solutions to drive traffic back. Retail Solutions, however, was not the first on this project.

“I think there was general concern with the mall for a while, seeing some of those larger anchors go out that we all know; kind of a lot of them went out all across the country,” Kearney said.

These anchors are stores like Macy’s, Footaction and Mervyns.

“There were some other retail brokers that were (selling) the anchor and junior-anchor spaces. So they’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting for us, and they’ve basically filled out some of those spaces,” Kearney said.

New stores have been added to Cottonwood Mall, such as Hobby Lobby, Mor Furniture for Less and Homelife. Stores leaving Cottonwood Mall are “immediately backfilled with specialty retail, discount retail and hard-goods retail; it’s alive and well,” Kearney said.

Hard goods are a range of non-personal items, including sporting goods, jewelry, furniture and electronics.

Targeting specialty, discount and hard-goods retail is part of Retails Solutions’ strategy of creating a winning combination at Cottonwood Mall. By partnering those stores with more entertainment, restaurants and local flavor, they would be able to drive more traffic to the mall, Kearney said.

“We all know that e-commerce has been hurting retail, in different sectors of retail. So what we’re trying to look for is those users, those tenants, that are Amazon-proof,” Tidwell said. “The people that you really can’t have the experience without brick and mortar.”

New free additions like the dog park, oversized chess boards and a children’s play area are drawing in more foot traffic.

The food court now has local options like The Paleta Bar and Cuco’s Kitchen.

Tidwell said adding localized accents to the mall aligns with the “change in trend.”

“It’s not really a retail apocalypse as much as it is just a changing in consumer tastes in what they want to see in a shopping mall,” he said.

Kearney said they would like to bring business from Nob Hill, downtown Albuquerque, Uptown and Santa Fe to Cottonwood Mall.

“The idea being, as you have one on this side of town, let’s do one on this (other) side of town,” he said. “We’re not opposed to anyone from Rio Rancho coming; it’s just not the first thing that came to mind, but absolutely we would love to see that.”

Before being brought on to this project, Retail Solutions employees never thought about bringing a tenant to the mall.

“I don’t know if this is just because we were ignorant, and didn’t know how to get a tenant in the mall, but we never really thought about bringing a tenant to the mall, like driving them in that direction,” Kearney said. “Any management like that can seem unapproachable.”

To make Cottonwood Mall managers more approachable, Retail Solutions staff is working with the brokerage community in Albuquerque.

“So we’re very involved in the brokerage community, No. 1, and a lot of people know our faces, know our names, we’re easy to work with, and through that community, we’re definitely hoping to do some deals,” Kearney said.

Retail Solutions is working on bringing two new tenants to Cottonwood Mall. More information will be released once paperwork is finalized.

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