Vancouver Mall preps for holidays with new energy

New branding strategy, new attractions and the opening of an H&M will keep mall-goers on their toes

Van Mall

Barely out of the back-to-school shopping season, the Vancouver Mall is already gearing up for the holidays with new tenants and attractions.

Retail giant H&M is just weeks away from opening a 20,000-square-foot store on the first floor of the mall (in the former Nordstrom space). It will be the Swedish company’s first store in Southwest Washington.

Above H&M is another new tenant, Gold’s Gym, which opened in March and occupies 32,000 square feet of space. Other new tenants include The Walking Company, PINK – Victoria’s Secret, Pipsqueak Resale Boutique and Mythic Escapes.

A new attraction

Bringing a new type of attraction to the mall, Mythic Escapes is a locally-owned game shop with a pair of escape rooms – physical adventure games where players are locked in a room and have to solve puzzles in order to escape within a set time limit.

James Omelina, Mythic Escapes’ director of marketing and communications, said that since opening in June, their business has increased more than 300 percent.

“We’re the first escape rooms in Clark County. We’re doing really well and we’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished,” he said. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive. There are some escape rooms in Portland, but we’re really trying to elevate the experience to something beyond what anyone has seen in the area.”

Omelina said plans are already in the works to lease additional space at the mall, which will pave way for the construction of additional escape rooms and a corporate office.

As a destination business, he added, Mythic Escapes is having a real positive impact on the rest of the mall.

“We’ve sort of become an anchor like Macy’s or JC Penney where people go specifically to the mall [for us],” said Omelina. “People typically book online and then they’re coming to the mall specifically to come to Mythic Escapes. Then while they’re here, they may go through the food court or wander through the other shops after they’re done with their experience.”

Rebranding

In addition to welcoming new tenants, the Vancouver Mall is undergoing a rebranding effort with help from Vancouver-based Effective Web Solutions (EWS). The rebranding stems from Centennial Real Estate’s purchase of the mall from Westfield Corp. last December.

“We’re currently working hard to increase the overall traffic to the mall’s website, and working on other ways to increase internet awareness,” said Monique Rice, co-owner and operations manager of EWS. “We’re happy to say that we’ve increased their traffic by over 35 percent in four months.”

In addition to increasing traffic, Rice said her firm is fleshing out the mall’s digital strategy by giving their site “revitalized life with [a] Pinterest-style website.”

“It’s been a great partnership with EWS,” said Chris Yates, marketing director of the Vancouver Mall. “Working with a local firm has definite benefits since they are familiar with the market.”

EWS will also be working on press releases for future events and openings.

The future of Macy’s

In early August, Macy’s announced plans to close nearly 100 stores across the United States. While the company didn’t indicate which stores it would be closing (that announcement is expected after the holiday season), at least one business analytics firm, 1010data, believes Portland-area stores may be at risk.

“Of the ten [similar] department stores in the Portland area, Macy’s owns seven, but their market share is only 36 percent – half the size of their store share,” the firm explained. “… trips are increasing but basket size is slightly declining. This suggests that while Macy’s business in Portland is going well, the company might not need so many stores. Macy’s might actually see market share increase even further if they reduce their footprint and instead focus on a few of the most profitable locations in Portland.”

Yates said he feels confident that the Vancouver Mall Macy’s will not be on the list of closing stores, especially considering recent investments made by the department store.

“They just did a quite extensive remodel of their cosmetics department,” he said. “It’s also been targeted as a high-growth location, so I do not anticipate it being on that list.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Macy’s and competition from online retailers, Yates said the future at the mall looks bright.

“People are still social beings – they want to interact, they want to come to the library,” he said. “That’s why we added so many different services and amenities here at the mall. It’s more than just buying a t-shirt.”

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