Deals had shoppers waiting in lines outside some of the store at Warwick Mall on Black Friday. But stores didn’t open at midnight nor did people camp outside hoping to snag one of a limited …
Deals had shoppers waiting in lines outside some of the store at Warwick Mall on Black Friday. But stores didn’t open at midnight nor did people camp outside hoping to snag one of a limited number of items for sale. Mall manager Domenic Schiavone wasn’t surprised. The retail business has changed and while there were Friday sales with discounts of 30, 40 and even 60 percent, Schiavone said Black Friday really started on Nov. 1.
“Black Friday gets started early,” Schiavone said standing outside Rhode Island’s only Forever 21 store, one of the mall’s newest tenants. The largely women’s apparel store, advertising 30 percent discounts, was busy.
“People are always looking for bargains, especially with inflation,” he said surveying the stream coming and going from the 16,000 square foot store. Then he was interrupted in his appraisal of the retail market and in particular what he sees as the state’s retail “hub,” Warwick Mall and the nearby Garden City in Cranston.
“Excuse me,” he said turning to a family leaving Target. A woman, accompanied by what appeared to be her mother and father, husband and older children had spotted Schiavone. She was smiling broadly and wanting to know his latest news. They hadn’t seen each other in some time and there was lots to catch up on. The family stood patiently, shoppers diverting their course to make there way around them. Schiavone promised to be in touch, they continued on their way.
“Only in Rhode Island,” Schiavone said returning back to his description of the mall. He’s right. Shoppers visit the wall expecting to find friends, families and bargains. They may find what they’re looking for on Amazon and the internet but they’re not going to get the mall experience. Entertainment is part of what the mall offers in addition its food court and Santa at this time of year. Santa’s seat was set up at the center of the mall but the jolly man wasn’t to be seen or the professional photographer to capture memories of the encounter.
There was no sign of Plexiglas partitions around Santa’s chair as was the case during the panic of the pandemic. And, in fact, not a single shopper was seen wearing a mask although the staff at Bed and Bath, with a line 15 deep waiting to get into the store and take advantage of its buy 3, get 3 free offer, were all masked.
While Santa will be at the mall, Schiavone said the Grinch has proven to be a big attraction with people looking to get their photos with him.
“He’s very popular,” Schiavone said. The Grinch is planning three visits in December. Times can be found on the mall website.
In years past the mall had a schedule of school and community chorale groups to serenade shoppers. That tradition was interrupted by the pandemic and hasn’t returned. Schiavone pointed out that adequate space for the groups is problematic. In addition, school budgets/schedules are tight and finding funding for buses and the time can be difficult.
As for Warwick Mall/Garden City Hub, Schiavone views the mall as more of a family destination as compared to Garden City that he sees as more of a singular adult shopping center. He said the two play off each other with, for example, mom bringing the family to the mall to outfit the kids while she swings over to Garden City for her personal more selective purchases.
What about Providence Place Mall, how does that fit into the Rhode Island retail scene?
Schiavone said malls need to perpetually “reinvent themselves.” In the case of Providence Place, Schiavone foresees business returning as activities return to the RI Convention Center and Providence in the wake of the pandemic. He doesn’t imagine empty space in the mall will be converted to housing, but more likely medical and educational facilities.
Warwick Mall, he said, is full. Pointing to a 7,500 square foot space above Target he said the mall will shortly announce a new tenant.
“We’re really excited about this. It’s the largest of its kind in New England. It’s a concept, not a chain (store),” he said.
Schiavone was tight lipped on what that might be.
After all, surprises are part of the mall experience.
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