By  on July 10, 2007

Apparel retailers in the Southwest said the prolonged heat wave that has besieged the region is driving shoppers into enclosed malls — and keeping them away from lifestyle centers and street-side shopping districts.

But not everyone goes inside to shop.

Temperatures topping 105 degrees Fahrenheit have plagued Nevada, Arizona, western California and southern Utah for more than a week. The mercury shot up to 115 degrees for two days in a row last week in Phoenix, which averages 107 degrees this time of year, and climbed to 113 in Las Vegas on Friday.

Relief from the heat is not yet in sight.

David Scholl, senior vice president for Westcor, a Phoenix-based subsidiary of mall developer The Macerich Co., said the heat has been a boon for enclosed malls. "It's amazing how many people go to the mall when it's hot outside," he said. "The theaters are packed…you probably also get a little more activity at night."

Scholl added that "the outdoor malls suffer a little in the heat," in terms of sales and shopper traffic, but noted that annually, the company's lifestyle centers perform slightly better than the enclosed properties.

Still, not everyone who comes to cool off in a mall is there to shop, said Sonia Diaz, manager of discount retailer Bon Worth in Tucson, Ariz. Diaz said shopper traffic has been up in the mall-based store, but sales have been cut in half since the heat wave began. "On Saturday and Sunday there were a lot of people in the store, but no one was buying," she said.

Penny Long, owner of the Phoenix-based specialty store chain Electric Ladyland, said, "It's almost inhuman, it's so hot." Long operates stores in outdoor and enclosed centers, and said that while sales in enclosed malls are still strong, getting customers to come to outdoor locations "is a challenge, for sure."

Long also noted that there is typically less money filtering through the area in the summer. Tourism is down in the hot months and "anybody who's affluent goes to their beach house. They leave and then the [sales] girls get on the phone and they send out boxes to wherever they are — San Diego, Flagstaff [Ariz.], Los Angeles."One place where tourism hardly ever falters is Las Vegas, a city famous for its climate-controlled shopping environments. Consumer spending in Sin City has been similarly resilient this past week, said local retailers.

"Traffic has been way up at [the centers] anywhere from 10 to 20 percent," said Susan Houck, vice president of marketing for General Growth Properties, which owns Fashion Show shopping center and the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. "Everyone's coming inside because it's just too hot out. And people are still walking the boardwalk. The heat isn't stopping them."

Angel Gonzales, fashion director at famed vintage store The Attic, said, "When people want to go shopping, nothing stops them. Most of the people who shop here are tourists, and they know they are going to be melting. They're prepared."

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