Cadillac Fairview builds mall hangout

So what's the story?...

So what’s the story?

Moms no longer have to drag kids through Markville Shopping Centre in Markham, Ont., thanks to the recent debut of the 7,000 embarq Lounge developed by Cadillac Fairview. The kids’ area is staffed by Early Childhood Educators and features a Crayola station, music section and an aquarium provided by the Toronto Zoo, among other fun attractions. The adult sitting room offers a fireplace, waterfalls and free snacks, as well as services such as personal shopping assistance and 15-minute neck massages.

Members are asked to fork over $150 a year (although they receive a $50 certificate for the mall when they sign up), and are issued a card that gives them access to the lounge, while children are tagged with identification bracelets in case they wander off.

By next spring, the concept will roll out to 10 other locations, including Market Mall in Calgary, Polo Park in Winnipeg, Richmond Centre in Vancouver, Masonville Mall in London, Ont., and several other ‘family centres’ in the Greater Toronto Area, according to Dominick Bovalino, VP of marketing and corporate communications at Cadillac Fairview.

And just in time for summer, too! Who does Cadillac Fairview expect to use these services?

The lounge is geared at affluent families, consisting of two employed parents and a couple of kids. While normally clans dole out an average of $350 a month at Cadillac Fairview shopping centres, this group generally contributes $900.

‘Our primary goal is to get them to spend more time with us,’ says Bovalino. ‘We know that the more time people spend, the more money they’ll spend.’

Through company research, Cadillac Fairview discovered that while these families comprise 20% of shoppers, they make up 40% of market potential. The commercial real estate owner then funded studies to identify barriers to ‘the shopping satisfaction’ of women, who constitute 70% of its clientele.

‘Our primary customer told us that when her kids or husband get bored, tired or frustrated, she goes home,’ he says. ‘Also she sometimes wants a break, or a place to store her packages.’ Plus, these moms are time-strapped, not cash-strapped, he adds. And considering the cost of babysitters these days, $150 a year isn’t steep. ‘The value is there because they see their children engaged and learning, and it’s freeing up time, which is what Mom needs more than anything else.’

The company has also designed an information system that will collect data to help Cadillac Fairview understand its customers better in the long run.

‘We’re trying to get our tenants to target-market and move beyond the mass approach,’ says Bovalino. ‘We’ll collect basic information, such as where they shop, what they spend and what they’d like to see. Then we’ll carry that information back to the tenants to make sure they provide those services.’

Are parents likely to leave their kids with strangers? And do they really expect guys to hang around a mall?

The kids’ section is secure, and visitors can’t get in the door without being buzzed in. A registration system keeps tabs on who drops the tykes off, and nervous parents can leave with pagers so they can be alerted in case of an emergency.

As for the men, there are several toys in the lounge to keep them occupied, including Internet kiosks, CD listening posts, magazines and televisions equipped with remote controls. What more could they ask for?

Nothing obviously. How will patrons know that the lounge exists?

In collaboration with Toronto-based Carlson Marketing Group, Cadillac Fairview implemented an in-mall, point-of-sale teaser campaign to announce its opening. In addition, postcard invitations were sent to households in the trading area, offering a free pass to test the premises.

Down the road, the company also plans to organize events and promotions at embarq. For instance, members of the Toronto Zoo will bring in animals for an educational visit with the kiddies (no dingoes, we hope), while adults will get discounts from retailers in the mall.

‘Obviously, we want them in stores, which is why we tie embarq back to the retail environment,’ says Bovalino, who adds that spring is an ideal season to debut the concept. ‘It builds into summer, which is a time when penetration goes up, especially with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and back-to-school.’

So this year, forget T-ball or swimming, plop the kids at embarq and shop-till-you-drop!