Retailers ready at West Park Mall

Monday, December 18, 2006
West Park Mall is undergoing a make over as it adds new stores and shops under its new owners. One of the most high profile additions was Barnes & Noble. (Don Frazier)

"We are totally decorated and music can be heard throughout the mall. All the retailers are very optimistic about a busy shopping season," said Lindsey Church, marketing director at West Park Mall in Cape Girardeau.

The centralized Holiday Court, accentuated by a carousel crowded with children riding ranch and farm animals, is decked out in Christmas colors, said Church, and Santa is in the Macy's wing until Dec. 24.

"Kids can get their picture taken with him," said Church. "It's a fun set-up. With a picture, children get a voucher for a free ice cream cone."

Sierra Radcliff, 7, of Pevely, Mo., enthusiastically licked a strawberry ice cream cone after her photo with Santa. Before that, she was on the musical carousel.

"I rode the chicken this time," she said, grinning, adding that her grandfather was taking her Christmas shopping for presents for her parents.

Church said there are an extra 10 to 12 kiosks in the wide aisles at the mall. She said the number of kiosks remain pretty steady throughout the year -- until the holiday season arrives.

"Then we get bunched up," she said. "There are a lot of unique retailers that have great gift ideas. Kiosks are fun to visit, and our regular stores are also getting a lot of visitors."

Mitchell Brown, vice president of marketing for Centro Watt, the Philadelphia-based company that bought the mall earlier this year and changed its name from Westfield West Park to its original West Park Mall, said it's been a busy year.

"Barnes & Noble opened in late October, just in time for the holiday season," said Brown, adding the new store stocks close to 200,000 books, CDs, DVDs and magazines. There is also a cafe that serves Starbucks coffee.

Barnes & Noble is next to Old Navy, which opened last year in the JCPenney wing. Barnes & Noble has exterior and interior entrances. It also offers Wi-Fi service for Internet users. It moved from a 20,000-square-foot location on William Street near the mall into a 27,000-square-foot facility. The mall hadn't had a bookstore there since Waldenbooks left in August 2005.

"Barnes & Noble is doing very well and we're pleased with their business," said Brown. "We're looking forward to our first holiday season at the mall."

According to mall manager Paul Dobbins, bookstores are an important ingredient for a mall to be successful.

"It's a major deal," he said.

Dobbins said a bookstore like Barnes & Noble elevates atmosphere, as well as the number of shoppers who frequent malls.

Brown noted that Famous Barr, a long-time anchor at the mall, earlier this year was bought by Macy's. Brown said he thinks Macy's has a better offering of merchandise than its predecessor.

"Overall, our occupancy rate at the mall is pretty high. There's a lot of niche stores that fill gaps when other stores leave. And kiosks are more plentiful right now," said Brown.

Old Navy opened about 13 months ago in a renovated spot that was previously occupied by Garfield's, a restaurant. Brown said Old Navy sells merchandise that appeals to everyone, especially the college crowd, "and that store plays well off the other stores."

Church, the marketing director, said there are several new restaurants at the mall.

Brown said there's a new family lounge and restrooms at the mall. That improvement was made by the previous owners. Brown said it's a great addition. Located in the Steve and Barry's Sportswear wing, another fairly new, big-name business at the mall, the family lounge was created specifically for families with small children and nursing mothers.

The lounge offers many new amenities for shoppers. It features bottle and wipe warmers, baby changing stations, private nursing stations, a TV that plays children's' entertainment programs, children's' books and a parent-child restroom.

McAlister's Select is another recent addition to the mall. It opened last June in the former location of Panera. Shoppers can indulge in gourmet deli sandwiches, soups, desserts, cookies and a trademarked iced tea.

Church said the mall has extended shopping hours for the holiday season.

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