It is generally agreed that this week is when the holiday shopping season officially begins. Stores and malls around the country are preparing for Black Friday, which now starts on the evening of Thanksgiving. But, retail has had a tough time lately, especially big department stores that often anchor shopping malls. Last year, we spoke to Alana Ferko who manages the Butte Plaza Mall in Butte, Montana. The mall had just lost one of its big anchor stores, JC Penny, and she was worried about the future of the mall. We checked in to see how she’s feeling about this holiday season.
On Black Friday:
We don’t call it “Black Friday” in our world. We call it “Golden Friday.” We like to maintain a golden attitude.
On small businesses at the mall:
We took ourselves way outside of the box…yes, there seems to be a resurgence of mom-and-pop stores and our ownership is making some great deals so that we can fill the spaces, increase the activity level, and it just makes it better for all of us. Also, we have a satellite to our public library. We have a couple non-profits that we host here, so yes, we are outside of the box and yes, we are bringing in more mom-and-pops.
On the mall’s competition:
I will tell you, it is I-90 and I-15 because you can just jump on the interstate right here, just north of the mall. It’s a beautiful ride to a couple of markets that are very competitive to us. It’s also the Internet. People can shop from the comfort of their own home. Most of these Internet businesses are making it very easy to return. There’s very little cost involved in shipping. That is my primary competition, not the big box stores. It’s definitely the Internet and the interstate.
On how shopping at a mall is different from shopping online:
You don’t get a smile from a computer. You don’t get any face time or chat time. It’s service. We provide exceptional service and that puts an emotional feel to it.
On the economy in Butte:
[The] economy is pretty good. We do have a goldmine that is shutting down in Whitehall. There will be a loss of some jobs there, but I think in general, and I know this [from] back in 2008 when things were tough. People still wanted to have a good Christmas, no matter how depressed things were. You just modify a little bit. Attitudes are very grateful and I think it’s going to be a great season. I can feel it already.