NEW YORK — For the Fourth of July, malls are hoping that America’s passion for shopping outweighs anxieties over a terrorist strike.
This story first appeared in the July 3, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The Fourth is typically a big volume day, filled with special promotions, special events and markdowns, and fueled by most people being off from work. Government officials have advised that everyone should go about their normal business and participate in holiday celebrations. But they’re also saying to watch out for suspicious behavior, which may discourage some people from leaving home.
At the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., the nation’s largest mall, “Traffic is usually quite heavy during the day but tends to start falling off a little as evening approaches, so we’re closing a little early for the first time on the holiday,” said a spokesman. The mall will close at 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. “We have two special events planned for July 4, and both should attract huge crowds: Chaval, an acrobatic troupe similar to Cirque du Soleil, is performing under two tents in the mall, and we have a quilt on display honoring the victims of Sept. 11, called the Midwest Living Peace Quilt.”
At Lenox Square in Buckhead, Ga., northeast of Atlanta, “We expect about 250,000 people this year, one of the biggest Fourth of July celebrations in the country, and the largest we’ve ever had in terms of fireworks,” said Jeff Pierce, marketing director. “Given the increased sense of patriotism this year, we expect a lot more people than previous years. Last year we had to fight the rain. Only about 125,000 people showed up.”
Pierce said Lenox has “worked very closely with the Atlanta Police Department in recent months, and people will definitely be aware of their presence this week. Certainly more visually present that ever before.” A mix of uniformed and plain-clothed guards will be present. The mall closes at 6 p.m. as opposed to the usual 9 p.m.
Lenox Square will begin its Fourth of July celebration with the start of the Peachtree Road Race, which is six kilometers and starts in front of the mall. Entertainment begins at 6 p.m. with local musicians and the Army Ground Forces Band. There will also be fireworks, a multimedia display and an official welcome from politicians. Lenox will also open an interactive exhibit honoring the country’s Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, called “Ordinary Heroes.” It’s based on Tom Casalini’s book of the same name. The exhibit will tour the country for four months.
The Mall of Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta, will host a day-long Fourth of July celebration, beginning with live entertainment at 11 a.m. and concluding with fireworks at 9:30 p.m. There will also be carnival-style games, and many stores are offering 20 percent discounts.
Mall spokespeople stressed that safety is not just a holiday issue, but an ongoing one of great importance since last September. Lenox Square and Mall of Georgia have worked closely with authorities to take special security precautions for events; the Atlanta and Gwinnett Police Departments will have command centers in various locations surrounding Lenox and Mall of Georgia. Special operational units will also be on site.
According to Karen MacDonald, director of communications for Taubman Centers, which owns or manages 29 shopping centers across the U.S., the company will not be increasing security for July 4. “We’ve been at a heightened level [of security] since 9/11 and have continued to maintain that same level,” said MacDonald. “We continue to work closely with local law enforcement emergency officials. We conduct periodic emergency evacuation drills and have restricted access to sensitive areas like rooftops, delivery zones and loading docks. And those are just some of the security measures that we’ve implemented.”
While malls seem undeterred by the terrorist threat, so are most travel-minded Americans. They’re spending as much or more this year on summer vacations, according to “Americans, Summer Vacations, and Debt,” a survey commissioned by nonprofit credit counselor AmeriDebt. It showed that 52 percent of the country will, or may, take a summer break this year, compared with 48 percent in 2001. On average, vacationers will spend just over $1,500 on summer excursions.
“Americans are heeding the advise of President Bush and others urging them to carry on with their normal plans,” said AmeriDebt president Doug Nunes in a statement.
Fourteen percent of those surveyed planned to cut spending on vacations Of this group, 28 percent are tighter due to debt, recent unemployment or layoff concerns, while 19 percent cited terrorism for vacation downsizing. “These survey findings suggest that personal financial worries weigh more heavily on the minds of many Americans than do fear of terrorist attacks,” said Nunes.
Conducted by Opinion Research Corp., the survey polled 1,063 adults in the continental U.S. this spring. A total of 542 individuals surveyed formed the subgroup that may take a vacation this summer. Results for the total group have a margin of error of 3 percent. Results for the subgroup could be off as much as 4 percent.