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American Dream Mall Traffic Numbers Are Better Than Expected

The owners of the American Dream mall in New Jersey may be sleeping a little better these days.

To say the giant shopping and entertainment complex fabled within the industry for its incredibly long gestation period and series of jinxed-like setbacks and troubles is creating sweet dreams for its owners may be a stretch but new data on foot traffic offers encouraging signs, perhaps beyond any of some cynic’s forecasts.

Placer.ai, the research company that tracks retail traffic, reported this week that the “number of shoppers that visited American Dream over the past month or so are at their highest levels since January and February — before the pandemic effectively shut everything down.”

American Dream’s owners, the Triple Five real estate developer known for Mall of America in Minneapolis and the even larger West Edmonton Mall in Canada, only reopened the place Oct. 1 after being closed since spring due to the Covid pandemic. About 60 retailers were part of the reopening, joining the amusement park, ski slope and ice skating rink that had been part of the first wave of its initial opening in the fall of 2019. At that, the complex was decades behind its original timetable and had undergone numerous ownership, name and format changes. The current plan is for 300 stores but more than half of its 3 million-plus square feet space is projected to be occupied by entertainment and restaurant properties.

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While Placer.ai does not break down traffic at stores versus entertainment venues, it said “the weeks beginning September 28th and October 5th saw the fifth and third most visits for any week since the mall opened late last year.”

Those are encouraging numbers as there has been great uncertainty about whether visitors would want to venture out to malls, particularly giant enclosed ones, as they try to keep safe during pandemic conditions.

“The relaunch of the American Dream is going exceptionally well with visits not only reaching new peaks but seeming to grow each week as the destination further establishes itself as a must-visit,” said Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing for Placer.ai.

“Critically, the entry of retail into the mix is very well timed with the holiday season just a few months away. Even more, the location is likely to benefit from the combination of its massive size and the inclement weather winter is likely to bring.”

American Dream’s massive scale could end up being an even bigger plus under pandemic conditions, he said. “Essentially, American Dream could provide the most ‘open air-esque’ experience while still providing shelter from the elements. Critically, it is also forcing operators to focus on the local audience as opposed to trying to drive tourists and long-distance visitors. This could provide a long term benefit positioning the American Dream as a mainstay of the local retail environment.”

It’s certainly premature to offer any broad conclusions about American Dream’s ongoing viability given that New Jersey and the entire New York metropolitan area are undergoing a resurgence of Covid cases amid concerns of worsening case rates as the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors. Certainly the pandemic is yet one more calamity thrown at this project. But based on a very short sampling period the news is better than expected and Triple Five will take it.

Source: Forbes – Business

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