Mall numbers adding up

February 09, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

About 2.5 million people stopped in at the newly expanded Valley Mall during the last three months of 1999, including 1 million in December, a spokesman said Wednesday.

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That was the highest visitor count among the 10 most popular malls owned by Crown American, spokesman Christine Menna said. The Johnstown-based company owns 27 malls.

The mall, to celebrate a $43 million expansion that included a food court and a Hecht's department store, held a reopening party in late October.

"When we had the grand reopening in October the amount of people then, and on subsequent days, far exceeded our expectations," Menna said. "It was interesting to see how much traffic has come through the mall."


In comparison, before the new area opened, about 63,000 visitors a week, or about 3.2 million people a year, stopped in at the mall, said Valley Mall Manager Ron Formosa.

"We expected great increases but not the increases we've seen," he said.

Crown American installed "people counters" at its 10 most popular malls, including Valley Mall. Menna said.

People counters are infrared sensors placed at mall entrances to keep track of the number of people who enter the mall, she said.

The counters are set to count people as they enter the mall, but not as they leave. A person going in and out of the mall more than once during a single visit would be counted multiple times, she said.

Crown American also owns the Martinsburg Mall and the Chambersburg Mall, but those malls do not have the counters because they are not among the company's 10 most popular, she said.

The second most popular mall was the Capitol City Mall in Harrisburg, Pa., which had 2.3 million visitors in three months and 1 million in December, she said.

"The $43 million expansion was perfectly justified because of all the shoppers they attracted," said Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission Marketing Director Tom Riford.

"It just proves that Washington County was an under-stored market," he said. "Under-stored" is a trade term for an area that does not have enough retail outlets to attract shoppers from a 60-minute driving radius, he said.

Mall merchants said they noticed the change.

"It has been crazy," said Babbage's Manager Joe Krupa. Since moving to a larger store in a more central part of the mall, sales at the software store have doubled or tripled, he said.

He attributed the increase to the mall expansion and the store move.

Sales and traffic also jumped up significantly at KayBee Toys, especially during the holidays, said Manager Vernon Campbell.

"It was unbelievable," he said.

While customer traffic increased, so did competition for shoppers' dollars, said Virginia Neisser, manager of Designer Sunglasses.

She said the traffic level has returned to the pre-expansion days.

"It is right back to where it was before," she said.

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