Shoppers complain it's no fun at the mall
SAN FRANCISCO |
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Consumers who shop at malls cite as top complaints the limited variety of restaurants, lack of variety among retailers, and parking difficulties, according to a study released on Tuesday.
Some 80 percent of mall shoppers questioned said they experienced a problem on their last visit, according to a study conducted by the Baker Retailing Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and the Verde Group, a market research consultancy.
"One of the most counterintuitive findings was the extent with which consumers have a problem ... with the infrastructure, the range and variety of the stores, everything related to access and comfort," said Paula Courtney, president of the Verde Group.
The study conducted telephone interviews with over 900 randomly-selected U.S. consumers from late October to early November.
The mall complaints come as U.S. shoppers have dramatically curtailed shopping, spooked by a recession and global financial meltdown, a lingering housing slump, and high food costs.
Last week, retailers posted sales figures that were the worst in more than 35 years, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.
"These findings should be a call to action for mall developers who are failing to quench this thirst for excitement," said Wharton Professor Stephen Hoch in a statement. "Malls can't be mundane in this economic climate."
Mall operators, already struggling to lure shoppers to their centers, are facing a dwindling pool of retail tenants, as many bankrupt stores, from Steve & Barry's to Mervyn's, have begun to shut their doors.
Average vacancy levels at large U.S. malls are at their highest since 2001.
"You really have to fight for these dollars but you're doing nothing to get the customer to stay at your mall," said Courtney. "If anything you're going to encourage alternate measures of shopping."
Consumers also complained there were not enough restrooms in malls, nor signs directing shoppers to key areas. Shoppers also cited "too many teenagers hanging around" as a top complaint.
The stakes are high to keep shoppers interested in coming back to malls because, on average, they spend an average of $150 per visit, the study found. Only one in 10 shoppers spends no money during a visit.
About a third of shoppers spend at least two hours in the mall and the average shopper drives 25 miles to the mall, entering five stores per visit.
While shoppers aged 25 to 60 are the biggest spenders whose main complain is a lack of restaurants, the group with the most complaints were shoppers between 18 and 24. They reported more bad experiences over parking and the lack of store diversity than any other age group surveyed. (Reporting by Alexandria Sage)
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