Well, it’s official, the last vestiges of Saks, Saks Off Fifth, has left the Nicollet Mall. First to leave the Twin Citiess was Neiman Marcus, next Bloomingdales–even from their location at the Mall of America, and now Saks Outlet Downtown Minneapolis store. Now one can understand the former stores leaving during the economic decline, yet, one would have thought Bloomingdales would have kept their MOA store with all its’ international traffic, and Saks Outlet is a popular chic, designers bargain basement store–perhaps the downtown location was not the most advantageous, but hopefully we will see them return at a more strategic location in the Twin Cities. As of now, its’ location will be filled with another super Walgreens store as part of the city’s downtown revitalization.
Perhaps this is yet another sign that the sick economy has not fully recovered.
The Mall Of America in Bloomington, Minnesota has negotiated expansion to enlarge its’ holdings as the retail mecca; however, it still gets a poor grade in meeting the needs of all of its’ shoppers. Since MDM originally reported on MOA’s issues of accessibility for customers with physical challenges, it has installed accessible doors, one at each main entrance. However, wheelchairs are limited supply, and electric carts come with a $25 fee. Last Saturday, MDM witnessed that a number of physically challenged customers were not able to secure a complimentary wheelchair because lack of supply, and rightly refused to pay the rental fee charged by the management. Target, WalMart, Loewes, Home Depot, KMart, and a number of chain stores have seen the benefits of making shopping accessible to all their customers. Citing the cost of repair and upkeep of these vehicles as the reasoning for the rental fee by MOA management flies in the face of sound business practice as the cost of doing business that could be shared by the individual retail establishments in the Mall.
The economics are there since customers who have access to motorized carts are likely to shop, and to shop longer than those who do not. Not everyone with a physical impairment, temporary or permanent, own their own wheelchair, or have someone available to push a wheelchair, in order to shop. Equally noteworthy was that for a Saturday in June, the MOA was not very busy, and the group that were asking for the aids at customer service was significant. A suggestion as a middle ground solution for MOA is to tie the $25 fee into the purchases made at the Mall. If a customer spends $25 in purchases, substantiated by receipts, the fee can be waived or returned.
It’s time that management at the MOA wake-up, baby boomers–the largest group of shoppers–are aging and it is not sound fiscal policy to ignore them. If MOA continues to do so, such discriminatory, anti-user policies, and a poor economy will attract less and less customers and apparently after viewing the traffic at MOA last week, it has already begun.