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Sometimes reinventing the wheel is the right blueprint for surviving in a competitive marketplace.
Fashion Place Mall has avoided suffering a fate that has befallen other traditional enclosed malls. It remains a destination for Utah shoppers after four decades in business. It isn’t simply a matter of luck or location—Fashion Place followed a specific template in attracting high-end retailers and restaurants to its Murray location.
This template included giving the mall a top-to-bottom renovation, expanding the retail space and aggressively bringing in popular national retailers such as Crate & Barrel, H&M, Loft and The North Face.
“We’ve been able to introduce a new breath of life here, which is exciting,” says Natalie Watson, senior marketing manager for Fashion Place Mall. “People love that. Everybody loves new things and new stores. It makes them feel good and we want them to enjoy their shopping experience here.”
The evolution of Fashion Place Mall began with two phases of expansion and renovation. Rather than simply tear everything down and start again from scratch, Fashion Place executives chose to make enhancements that built upon the existing mall.
A first phase, which was completed in 2009, offered many dramatic changes. A total of 230,000 square feet of retail space was added to the mall. This included a new 138,000-square-foot store housing Nordstrom on the north end of the mall.
The mall interior underwent a complete remodeling. Part of that effort included modernizing the food court by putting all restaurants on one level, installing a larger number of skylights and installing outdoor seating. Outside the mall, walkable elements such as a rotunda were constructed to provide a greater community feel.
A second phase of expansion in 2011 added another 98,000 square feet of retail space. This expansion paved the way for popular retailers, such as Crate & Barrel and H&M, to enter the Utah retail market for the first time.
When the 12-month expansion was completed in 2011, 17 new stores and restaurants were added to Fashion Place Mall. Seven others opened up a year later, including Francesca’s Collections, LUSH and Pandora.
The most interesting aspect of this makeover is that it was not a reactionary one. Fashion Place Mall has enjoyed a consistent track record of success during the four decades it has been in Murray. Mall executives did not undertake these measures to boost sales or save the mall from closure. Their goal was simply to stay ahead of industry trends.
“This strategy was already in place,” Watson says. “It started because they were addressing the needs of the consumer and recognizing there was a needed change in the Salt Lake market. There’s a lot of growth and opportunity. They recognized that opportunity before really looking at the competition. It really was, ‘What is our strategy for Fashion Place?’ That’s where the focus was.”
Creating a shopping destination dotted with open air shops and restaurants puts Fashion Place on the right side of retail trends. Plenty of evidence in Utah has shown that the old concept of an enclosed indoor mall has lost its appeal with shoppers.
The Crossroads Mall and ZCMI Center were demolished to make way for the City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City. The Junction in Ogden opened up on the site of the former Ogden City Mall. In both instances, these new commercial developments discarded the traditional mall template and created a mix of entertainment, residential, retail and office space that fashioned a walkable, open-air, mini-community from scratch.
This template has been followed with other outdoor malls such as Jordan Landing and The Gateway. These places have found success by bringing together everything from movie theaters to corporate offices in a central location to create a mall that doubles as a community anchor.
Other traditional malls, such as Valley Fair Mall and University Mall, chose to expand and renovate along the same lines of Fashion Place Mall to ensure their survival into the 21st Century.
Watson acknowledges every mall is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to creating a successful mall. For Fashion Place, a favorable location near both Interstate 15 and Interstate 215 made a huge difference in drawing shoppers from all over the Wasatch Front. It has made it easier for the mall to stay viable and attractive to high-end retailers looking to draw in Utah shoppers.
“Every situation is so different with the economy and how people move,” Watson says. “I don’t know that I can say that we have this perfect template. We’ve just been fortunate to stay on top of the needs of our consumers and adapt and evolve with the retail industry.”
More evolution is in the works for Fashion Place Mall in 2013. Sears made an exit earlier this year and more new shops and restaurants are on the way to fill the void.
Whatever additional changes come to Fashion Place, one thing remains unaltered. The Murray-based mall continues to find ways to remain relevant as one of the premier shopping destinations along the Wasatch Front.
“That’s what so great—that momentum continues,” Watson says. “We have so much opportunity to continue to address the changes and the needs and attract new stores to the market.”