Will the shrieks from The Shredder, the world’s longest and tallest spinning roller coaster, and squeals from the Nickelodeon Skyline Scream, the world’s tallest indoor spinning drop tower, give way to the sounds of ca-ching, as retailers at American Dream, the 3.3 million-square-foot entertainment and shopping center in East Rutherford, N.J., are unveiled in March?
With the property just partially open, and only three out of 17 attractions operating, developer Triple Five Group said traffic and ticket sales are exceeding the company’s plan.
Retail space at the center is 85 to 90 percent leased. “We’ve moved on from Barneys. There are a number of tenants fighting and actually outbidding each other,” American Dream chief executive officer Don Ghermezian said, declining to be more specific. “We’ll have an announcement in early February.”
Barneys New York signed lease a for a 50,000-square-foot two-level flagship and Freds at Barneys restaurant, prior to its bankruptcy filing.
If the performance of It’s Sugar is any indication, other retailers could see robust sales. With only half of IT’SUGAR’s space open, the store is doing triple the volume of its top-ranking locations. “They’re talking about expanding beyond 22,000 square feet to almost 35,000 square feet,” said Ghermezian, who is also president of Canada-based developer Triple Five Group. “They’re adding six more cash registers and have to change the size of their bins. In the last three weeks, I’ve had seven tenants ask to increase the size of their stores.”
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It’SUGAR — a three-story candy department store that features a Statue of Liberty covered in 1.5 million jelly beans, lollypop garden, and an upcoming Oreo Twistid Cafe — is opening in the spring.
While entertainment and experiential, two of the retail industry’s most popular buzzwords, in most cases refer to food and beverage concepts and movie theaters. American Dream is a different animal with 50 percent to 55 percent of its gross leasable space devoted to amusements.
Triple Five, which operates Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., and West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, is looking at bringing elements of American Dream to the other centers. “We look at all three properties with the same lens,” said Ghermezian. “Those other centers are running at about 25 percent for entertainment. Over the next three to five years, we’re going to increase the number and get it closer to 50 percent, to 55 percent. That, to me seems to be the sweet spot.”
The Big Snow indoor ski slope has been popular in spite of its proximity to ski resorts in the region. “We had to reorder skis, boots and boards,” Ghermezian said. “It sold out during the holiday season for seven straight days. Big Snow is trying to find more ski instructors. For five straight days we were at capacity at the Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park and couldn’t sell anymore online tickets. The line for the ice rink takes an hour and a half. We had to order 400 additional pairs of skates.”
Ghermezian is confident that visitors to American Dream’s amusements will also shop at the stores. “There’s no doubt in my mind,” he said. “They’re not coming once or twice a year. The average local customer at Mall of America or West Edmonton Mall shops 18 or 20 times a year.”
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