As we've seen lately in the retail industry, companies need to work harder to get shoppers into their stores. Some retailers offer experiences, others sales and discounts. DEBUT, a newly opened store at the Minneapolis-based Mall of America (MOA), offers a revolving collection of products to entice shoppers to walk through its door.
“The goal of DEBUT is to offer guests a new kind of retail experience, while also allowing the brands themselves a chance to experience what it’s like to be part of MOA,” said Liz McLay, senior vice president of leasing at Mall of America. “The rotation allows for cycling in of new products and experiences.”
Every six months, DEBUT brings in new products centered on one theme. Its opening collection in November was craftsmanship, and the latest one — which opened last week — is Shop for Kindness.
“This collection, Shop for Kindness, puts the power in the hands of our guests to focus on causes they care about,” explains McLay.
Shop for Kindness, open from May 12 to Sept. 10, includes 13 brands that support various causes locally and around the world. Some of the participating shops include:
- House of Talents: This company seeks to empower the talented poor through the sale of high-quality handmade artisan products. House of Talents is currently working with artisan groups in the West African region to promote self-development through economic and social advancement in rural communities and cities.
- Humble Apparel: Inspiring an age-old, newfound love for the outdoors with sophisticated, modern outdoor apparel and goods. Humble Apparel benefits the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), a wilderness area within the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota .
- Love Your Melon: This brand gives hats to children battling cancer, supporting the fight against pediatric cancer with stylish beanies.
- MY SISTER: Working to prevent sex trafficking with ethically sourced apparel and accessories.
- Northern Glasses: Helping solve the water crisis in developing nations with graphically designed glassware and gifts.
- PAB’s Packs: This nonprofit founded by teenagers employs a “one for one” model — for each backpack it sells, one is donated to a child living with chronic illness. The backpacks are filled with items that are meant to comfort, offer some fun, and ease hospital stays.
“The mall has always been a hub for philanthropy and this format allows customers to further connect with a cause,” says McLay.
Many of these products are normally only available for consumers to purchase online, however, DEBUT allows MOA shoppers to see the product in person before buying. McLay notes that this is “an opportunity to experience a brand — to touch/feel/hold a product to better learn its story.”
And for the participating brands, they're getting global exposure — Mall of America gets over 40 million visitors per year, of which 40 percent are tourists. In addition to this exposure, the featured brands get to test the in-store format and receive metrics back on their performance, something pure-play online retailers typically can’t do.
“It’s a success and it’s also a work in progress,” says McLay. “Each new round provides additional learning and an expanding customer set.”