Since the virus pandemic began, consumers have stayed away from shopping malls, including Mall of America (MoA), the largest shopping mall in the US, with more than 500 stores, located in Bloomington, Minnesota. Already, MoA's owner, Triple Five, has missed mortgage payments this year. There is a push among MoA's marketing department to revive the dying mall via a new "live stream shopping" experience.
Jill Renslow, the Senior VP of Business Development & Marketing at MoA, told KARE 11 that MoA has just partnered with Popshop Live.
Renslow explained the app is "live real-time shopping through a digital channel. It's kind of the new version of QVC."
She said it's different than ordering from online retailers, as there is a digital shopping experience that is attached to it - something Amazon customers don't experience.
"You can interact with that host, learn about the products, and even ask questions and have them navigate through the store for you," Renslow said.
She said app users can search stores and buy products, all from within the app; adding another feature of the app is whenever a mall's shop goes live, consumers can watch a live show about the products.
"It can be something for everyone. One day we might be able to sell toys to a certain customer, then we might be able to do apparel for women. It might be beauty products; the options are endless," described Renslow.
Here are several examples of Popshop Live broadcasts from retailers within MoA.
We have a popping @popshop_live for you today at 1 p.m.! Tune in with our code “MOANOW” to learn about all the delicious flavors of popcorn you can try at @ThePopcornHouse! 😋🍿 https://t.co/yIFQ7kgg5w pic.twitter.com/s0EyXkzGZn— Mall of America (@mallofamerica) September 11, 2020
Cosmetic retailer Morphe is set to debut a live broadcast on Monday (Sept. 21).
The app could be a short-term solution to keep business flowing at MoA as many retailers are experiencing sluggish in-store sales with depressed foot traffic due to strict social distancing measures, a consumer not convinced brick-and-mortar stores are safe, and a timeline on vaccine commercialization for the masses that might not be until the second half of 2021.
"We really feel like this compliments brick and mortar really well, because not only can you continue to come and shop with us in person at MOA, but this is another way to engage with us in a really fun and dynamic way," said Renslow.
She said all purchases on the app would be mailed to the customer or available for curbside side pickup at MoA.
The introduction of the online shopping app comes as owner Triple Five Group has fallen behind on at least three of MoA's mortgage payments. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently said the mall is reportedly laying off 200 employees and could furlough up to 178 more.
Bloomberg said Triple Five missed a $7 million payment for June on a $1.4 billion mortgage.
As readers may recall, the ongoing crisis in structured debt backed by commercial real estate has pushed Starwood Retail Property Trust 2014-STAR, a portfolio which is backed by an almost $700 million loan which is collateralized by several malls - including The Mall at Wellington Green in Florida - owned by Barry Sternlich's Starwood Capital, and whose investors are beginning to take losses, to the verge of default.
MoA's shift to move hundreds of its retailers to a live real-time shopping app might be too late as retail bankruptcies continue to surge.
Could all of this suggest MoA's days are limited?