Local shoppers head to Mall of America

Minnesota State Roundup

Published April 1, 1994  | April 1994 issue

When it opened in August 1992 the Mall of America was perceived as a tourist attraction by some Twin Citians, but since then it also has become the shopping mall of choice for many.

The Mall of America in suburban Bloomington, touted as the nation's largest enclosed shopping mall and amusement center, contains more than 400 stores, an indoor amusement park, dozens of restaurants and other entertainment centers. And its arrival on the Twin Cities retail scene was met with mixed reactions.

Some analysts predicted local shoppers would stay away because the mall is so large; others said parking and traffic would keep the locals away. But in a recent survey 89 percent of metro area residents rated their parking experience at the mall as the same or better than at other malls. In addition, over 50 percent of the more than 35 million visitors in the mall's first year came from the Twin Cities metropolitan area. That number jumps to 62 percent when visitors within a 150-mile radius are added.

And these visitors are buying. A purchase was made in 35 percent of all stores that the local resident entered. According to a mall survey, 44 percent of metro area residents consider Mall of America their primary shopping center. Over one-quarter of those who had been to the mall at least twice cited shopping as a reason to return.

An independent poll conducted last December indicated that 78 percent of mall visitors from the seven-county Twin Cities area went to the mall to shop. And 36 percent of people who came to the mall for entertainment also shopped.

According to Maureen Hooley, the mall's director of marketing, these figures are not surprising. Local shoppers were expected to make up about 70 percent of visitors, Hooley says.

Although skeptics predicted that the mall's size would drive away local shoppers, "people have gotten to know the mall, what days and times to come, where to park," Hooley says. She adds that local shoppers also have learned that there are services available, like a shoe repair shop and a dental clinic.

The mall has done some "brilliant" things, says Dick Guidera, president of The Guidera Group Inc., retail and real estate consultants. "Just think of all the mothers who will bring their kids to school at the Mall of America and then go shopping," Guidera says, referring to public school facilities operating in the mall.

Despite the favorable numbers thus far at the Mall of America, Guidera says he's "less optimistic than most" about the long-term picture. "When you add 4 million square feet of mall space, the market becomes diluted," he says.

"But the mall is here to stay, and I don't think [other suburban malls] will disappear tomorrow," Guidera says. He also predicts that there are more malls to come.

The Twin Cities metro area is expanding on the north and south ends, and Guidera says that some anchors may put money into new sites where growth is expected instead of into existing, older malls. "The retailers follow the people," Guidera says.

Kathy Cobb