Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Is the mall dead? Au contraire, says mall CEO

Jane M. Von Bergen, Inquirer Staff Writer

But isn't the mall dead, our photographer asked Joseph F. Coradino as we wrapped up his Leadership Agenda interview published in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. It was like waving a red flag at a bull, because Coradino, the chief executive of a company which owns the Cherry Hill Mall, the Gallery, and two dozen other malls and shopping centers, leaped to his feet and ushered, or maybe dragged us, into his office.

There, framed and mounted on the wall in Coradino's sanctum at the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, was the cover of a Time Magazine with the headline "Kiss Your Mall Goodbye."

The date?

July 20, 1998.

Not dead yet, evidently, cackled Coradino in triumph.

People think online shopping is killing the mall. If anything, retailers and online selling go together, Coradino said.

"WiFi, we think that's key," as a mall amenity, Coradino said. "When we think about customer amenities, we’re working on delivering merchandise to our customers. We have a mall app where you can download it, go into one of our malls and tell them you’re looking for a pair of blue leggings and they’ll tell you every store in that mall that sells them and what they sell for.

Question: That’s interesting.

Answer: So you, in essence, can replicate the Internet shopping experience.

Q. While you’re in the mall.

A. While you’re in the mall.

Q. Because isn’t that frustrating for retailers when customers go to the store to shop and then to the Internet to buy?

A. Well, that’s actually not the case.

Q. No?

A. First off, I’m going to ask you a question. What percent of retail sales occurred on the Internet last year?

Q. I don’t know.

A. Six percent.

Q. Wow, that’s all?

A. Yeah, that’s all.

Q. How do you know that?

A. It’s my business.

Q. Okay.

A. So people tend to relate to growth, because what you hear after the holidays the Internet growth grew at 20 percent and bricks and mortar sales grew at 4 percent. But the base that we’re growing at compared to what the base that they’re growing is ridiculous. If we’ve got Internet selling for the next hundred years, they won’t catch us. But you know what? That’s even a parochial view, because the real way to look at Internet sales and bricks and mortar sales is what we like to call omni-channel sales. So think about this for a moment. There are really like four pieces to a sale. There’s what’s called product discovery.

Q. Okay.

A. So what’s product discovery? You said today when you came in I decided to wear this today because I knew I was coming to a retail company. Well, what if you said to yourself two weeks ago, `I’ve got a meeting with that Joe Coradino and I want to get something special.'

Q. And my Temple shirt’s in the wash. (I threw that in because both Joe and I graduated from Temple.)

A. Yeah. And I saw something I liked. I want to see if I can find it. You’re going to go on your device there and you’re going to find it. There it’s going to be. You’re going to buy this multicolored dress that you found. That’s discovery. Then there’s some research. Then you say gee, I want to do some research. You say, you know what, touching is important. I want to see what this fabric feels like. So that’s moving into a research phase, a discovery phase where you feel it, touch it, etc.

Q. Now we’ve got to get to the buying phase.

A. So the buying phase can occur in bricks and mortars or online. It doesn’t matter. They’re both together because here’s another important factor: That is that retailers who have bricks and mortars presence do better online than those who don’t. So you’re seeing even Amazon opening stores. So I don’t think we’re in an either, or situation. I think what’s happening today is that we are beginning to cooperate with one another.

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