Turns out, malls and grocers were made for each other.
A few years ago, Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) renovated Plymouth Meeting Mall in Philadelphia’s northwestern suburbs.
The renovation replaced an old Ikea on the site with a lifestyle component called Plymouth Meeting Mall’s Plaza Shops, which leads customers to the mall entrance.
PREIT brought in a 65,000-sq.-ft. Whole Foods Market as the anchor.
“We like Whole Foods’ customers,” explained Joseph F. Coradino, PREIT’s CEO. “They have disposable income; they are well educated, edgy and fit. They also shop Whole Foods at least twice a week. We thought their shopping patterns might draw more customers to other stores."
It did. “Whole Foods has influenced a number of stores positively, including a Charming Charlie, Loft, Olly Shoes, Massage Envy and others.”
Proof? Mall sales rose to $350 per square foot from $250.
What challenges face a mall grocer? “Parking,” said Coradino.
“Grocers want close-in parking for customers. For Whole Foods, we added 300 parking spaces under the store to the surface parking. A cart escalator helps them move their groceries down.”
The idea might be catching on. Coradino is considering it for other malls, and Whole Foods is taking space at the Colonie Center mall in Albany, N.Y.