Yesterday, we presented five ways small retailers can compete with the Web when it comes to holiday-season showrooming. It turns out that even malls are catching on, attempting to make negatively-viewed institutions like Black Friday just a little less painful.
From valet parking to reserved spots to free shuttle buses, obviously the first thing to address is the issue of the car. Past that, malls are offering free coffee, swag bags including hand sanitizer (because obviously touching a lot of things at the mall gets one’s hands dirtier than ordering all the presents online), and stations to leave packages while continuing to browse. And the most important thing of all? Malls are adding lounges and places to sit. It’s about time, in or out of the holiday shopping season.
What’s interesting is that the cues malls are taking come from services already offered by high-end retailers — basically, the idea is that the deals might be cheap but the amenities aren’t. It should be an effective way to counteract online retail’s growing prevalence, since physical retail’s new high-low offerings are something the Internet can’t really replicate.
Of course, there are the extreme examples. An independent childcare chain, Children’s Lighthouse, is offering babysitting from 4 am to 6:30 pm at various malls in Texas, for a fee. Having a place to stick kids in daycare so they can’t see what they’re getting for Christmas is smart, but doing so at dawn is probably verging on child abuse. That said, we’re interested to see how the other attempts at serenity that malls are offering will fare with consumers over the next month.