Experiential tenants act as destination anchors to centers

Adding experiential concepts boosts business for other retailers too

September 22, 2022
  • Keisha Virtue

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Experiential retail made a comeback in Q2

In the second quarter of 2022, traffic to experiential destinations like bars, theaters, entertainment attractions soared nearly 40% year-over-year. Americans are clearly interested in returning to normal, going out, dining in a restaurant, and working out in person.

Experiential tenants see the strongest rebound in foot traffic from Q2 2021



What’s even more resonant is that adding experiential tenants like fitness tenants, adventure concepts and sensory experiences to shopping centers boosts business for stores. For instance, data from Creditntell shows that a retailer located in a shopping center or mall that also has a fitness center gets 2.5% more visits than it does in a center without a fitness tenant. That’s especially the case for boutique concepts versus traditional gyms – although a high-end full-service concept like Life Time is a big draw for centers.

For example, Northshore Mall in Peabody, MA turned converted a vacant Sears store into a mixed-use center, incorporating a new Life Time fitness center, which offers a cornucopia of amenities like functional training rooms, yoga, Pilates, cycling studios, pickleball courts, saunas, and a bistro. As soon as the health club opened in July 2021, visits to the mall surged – significantly outstripping the traffic seen when Sears was still open.

Addition of Life Time fitness causes Northshore Mall visits to soar



Adventure and sensory experiences pull consumers into retail centers

The American Ninja Warrior TV show has been scaled down to be a fun in-mall attraction for kids and adults. The first location opened in Mainplace Mall in Santa Ana, CA in June of this year. It is roughly 17,000 square feet and has Monkey Swings, Spider Walls and the Warped Wall as well as a 10,000 square-foot obstacle course. This adventure concept gives visitors a chance to navigate some of the wacky, challenging obstacles from the show, but in a safer, more attainable environment.

After American Ninja Warrior opened, Mainplace Mall saw its visitor foot traffic surge 18% in July compared to the same period in 2019.  In fact, the attraction is well on its way to seeing more than 350,000 visitors in its first year.

American Ninja Warrior concept pushes up visits at Mainplace Mall




Sloomoo Institute

Sloomoo Institute started out as a pop-up in Manhattan in 2019. It was supposed to be short-term but it racked up more than 30,000 visits per month before COVID hit. And as consumers search for fun experiences again, Sloomoo is looking to open new permanent locations in November. There will be a 20,000 square-foot space in Chicago and a 28,000 square-foot location in Buckhead, Atlanta.  

The NY experience includes a slime waterfall, day-glow cove, interactive mirrors and do-it-yourself slime kitchens. But since the new locations will be larger, there will be additional attractions like a kinetic sandbox, and Smell Phones – i.e., 3D structures growing out of the wall where you can smell 60 different scents before adding it to your slime. Flavors include cotton candy and dragonfruit. The Chicago location will also have an augmented reality feature. 

Personally, I think the Sloomoo Institute is a wonderful way to give kids an immersive experience where they’re using their senses and are away from screens. But, slime in a mall and slime at home are two radically different things. Have you ever tried to get a slime stain out of a couch pillow?

Heading into the holidays

As we head into the holidays, I expect the thirst for experiences to continue. Giving a peek into the holiday shopping crystal ball, we predict that average shopping budgets will remain intact this year, despite inflation. In fact, if inflation continues its downward trend we may see consumers spending even more than they did last year. Barring any major shocks, it’s fairly certain that consumers will do more dining out, entertainment activities and traveling than in 2021. With movie sequels like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water being released in November and December, it could be a very Merry Christmas indeed for movie lovers and theater owners alike. I, myself, will be sure to grab some popcorn and a dining menu at my local iPic at least one of these blockbusters!


Contact Keisha Virtue

Sr Analyst, Research - Retail