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Whatever you think of, it probably has nothing to do with homegrown tomatoes, locally raised veal, and artisanal cheese. But mall owners across the country are looking to change that.
Forget roving bands of disaffected teenagers gnawing on giant pretzels. Today, malls are looking to attract a decidedly more lucrative demographic: foodies.
According to Bloomberg News, "grocery is the next frontier" for those once-iconic behemoths of American commerce now struggling against obsolescence. In May, mall operator Macerich Co. will open The Market at its Santa Monica Place mall, where vendors will hawk things like heirloom coffee, small-batch vinegars, and artisanal meats and wine. It will also feature a cooking school and a soufflé bar.
Another operator, Westfield Group, is overhauling the food court at its mall in Skokie, Illinois and transforming it into a destination for "gourmet prepared foods and groceries." Grocery stores such as Aldi's and Trader Joe's are suddenly popping up in malls everywhere.
Why? It's all about generating traffic. The average shopper visits a grocery store nine times per month, but only drags herself to her local mall three times a month. If malls can beckon those in search of organic free-range chicken, shoppers might just be tempted to also snap up a sale sweater at Banana Republic or some lip balm at The Body Shop.
"Fresh food 'definitely has the ability to drive more traffic and make a mall more profitable,'" one real estate analyst told Bloomberg News.
Which can't hurt, since of all the things you think about when you think about malls, "fresh" is likely one of the last words to come to min.
- Read about the 'Curse of the Zombie Shopping Malls' at AOL Real Estate.