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The mall future: More entertainment, less retail? (subscriber content)

By John Seelmeyer
Inside Round 1 at Meadowood Mall. Image: Bob Conrad.
Inside Round 1 at Meadowood Mall. Image: Bob Conrad.

Two new openings at Meadowood Mall provide a strong hint at the future of regional shopping malls, a future in which entertainment options are as important as the newest fashions.

Round1, which offers bowling, billiards, karaoke and arcade games along with a play area for children, just opened in a 41,300-square-foot space on the southeast corner of the mall. The entertainment complex is in about half of the first-floor space previously occupied by Sears.

Just around the corner, Crunch Fitness opened in a 22,283-square-foot space that previously was the home of a Sports Authority store.

A spokeswoman for Simon Properties Group, which manages the mall, says consumer experiences are becoming important as traditional shopping comes under pressure from online retailing.

“We’re in a dynamic time for the retail industry as a whole,” says the spokeswoman. “We are constantly exploring ways to create a more experiential environment for our guests, bringing in new entertainment, dining and other non-traditional offerings to reshape the way we think about retail experiences.”

The need for changes in the shopping center business was reinforced in recent days when fashion retailer Forever 21 said it’s closing its store at The Summit Sierra as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Both Round1 and Crunch Fitness executives, meanwhile, see their stores as important support to the retail sector.

Round1, a Japanese company that’s opening 10 to 15 locations a year in American shopping centers, says its entertainment centers draw about 100,000 a consumers a year to malls where it’s located.

And Crunch Fitness has said its 300 stores nationwide often serve as new anchors for shopping centers, bringing new life to centers that have lost grocers, department stores and other traditional retailers.