• Southlake Mall: Trendsetter?

    In a couple ways, Southlake Mall is something of an anomaly. In an age when the institution of the shopping mall is dying, its parking lots always seem to be full. Despite hearing the last couple years about how retailers like J.C. Penney and Sears are on their last legs, both stores remain open in Merrillville and seem just fine. And a decade or so after movie and music stores faded away in the era of digital download, Southlake still has one.

    But a trendsetter? A mall? In 2015? The very idea is almost laughable, but Southlake says so.

    Shoppers can now sign up for the mall’s OH, SO Simple Rewards program, in which they’ll receive $10 in credit for every $250 they spend at the mall. Loyalty programs are pretty standard among individual businesses of all kinds, but Southlake insists it’s the very first shopping center to create such a program for all its stores.

    If that’s true, well, it’s frankly a very minor occasion in business history.

    It’s a fair guess that this program is about convincing customers to bring their business to the mall’s physical stores instead of shopping online. Even though Southlake might be behind the curve as far as losing business to the web, it’d be foolish to think they’re immune.

    Will OH, SO Simple Rewards help increase Southlake’s sales? Well, it’s overall unclear if such programs really attract that much extra business. Several stores that have gone out of business in recent years had them (I still have my Borders rewards card).

    Even if it is successful and catches on with other shopping centers, however, I don’t see it doing anything to reverse the trend of more and more shoppers going online. Maybe brick and mortar retail will die out more slowly than experts predict, or never go away completely. But it’s never going to return to what it was once upon a time.