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Holiday traffic declines at mall

January 08, 2001

Holiday traffic declines at mall



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


The Valley Mall in Halfway saw almost 10 percent fewer shoppers in the 2000 holiday shopping season than the previous year, according to mall figures.

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Shoppers, store employees and mall officials attributed the decrease to several factors, including the weather, the presidential election, other new shopping centers and unusually large crowds in 1999 after a new wing opened at the 25-year-old mall.

Valley Mall Marketing Director Julie Simmons said electronic counters at the mall tallied 1,709,951 people in the 2000 holiday shopping season, compared to 1,896,413 in the 1999 holiday season. The holiday shopping season is from Nov. 8 through Dec. 31.

"Last year this place was packed, the whole mall. This year it was busy, but it was nothing compared to last year," said Angel Cordero, senior sales manager at Babbage's, a mall store that mainly sells video games and equipment.

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The 2000 holiday season was the first for the new Centre at Hagerstown, which may have provided some competition. However, Simmons said the new shopping plaza probably helped the mall because it attracted more shoppers to the area.

The same is true of Prime Outlets, Simmons said.

"We see both as a draw to our area.

"At first they're competition," Simmons said. "But they added to our shopping base. While (shoppers are) here going to the other shopping centers they're also coming here."

Simmons said a drop in mall traffic was to be expected because in October 1999 the mall unveiled a $43 million expansion.

"There was lots of hype when the new wing opened with Hecht's and Old Navy," she said.

Simmons said sales figures would not be available for about six weeks.

Soon Ju Kim, owner of S.J. Express Repair, a mall kiosk business that sells and repairs watches, said he's talked with several mall business owners and many told him they made less money in the most recent holiday season than in 1999.

"There are many shopping centers open now, like the Centre along (Interstate) 81," Kim said.

Vicky Newell, manager at Things Remembered, another kiosk business that sells engraved items, said sales were down 20 percent from the 1999 season.

Newell said the turmoil of the presidential election made shoppers wary.

"People don't like it when things are undecided," Newell said.

Also, the Centre probably took customers from the mall, she said.

"Anything new, people go there because they think there are better sales when a store opens," Newell said.

Scott Schroeder, corporate marketing director for Cleveland-based Developers Diversified Realty, which owns the Centre at Hagerstown, said it would be premature to say whether the Centre took business away from other area shopping centers.

"We would have to do a survey," he said.

Schroeder didn't have customer traffic figures for the Centre.

Arthur Kriemelmeyer, 63, of Charles Town, W.Va., and a Valley Mall shopper for the last 10 years, said the weather may have kept shoppers home.

"It was very cold before Christmas this year," he said.

"But possibly the biggest thing was worries about the economy and the election situation," Kriemelmeyer said.

Alice Rosen, senior marketing director at Prime Outlets Hagerstown, said the mall's customer traffic counters have not been working so she had no accurate count of holiday season traffic at the outlet center.

"It's no great surprise. We had a very slow season like all over the United States. ... But the days from the weekend before Christmas through New Year's were phenomenally good," Rosen said.

She said the mall tracks some sales figures, but she would not release those figures.

Rosen said the opening of the Centre did not affect the Outlets because "that's a local shopping center. We draw from a 100-mile radius."

"Somebody coming from Washington, D.C. is not coming to Marshall's (at the Centre) because there's one closer to them," Rosen said.

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