NEW YORK — The Rouse Co. is getting theatrical.
A new advertising and special event strategy, designed to raise revenues, foot traffic and the profile of its real estate portfolio, is in full swing at Rouse’s 2-million-square-foot Fashion Show mall in Las Vegas. Ads, runway shows, product launches and demonstrations there could be adapted to other properties in different ways, officials said.
Since last November, the mall has been signing advertising deals with a range of clients, from consumer products to merchants in the mall to movie studios and hotels. Among the companies buying space are General Motors, Nikon, Nordstrom, Access Hollywood, Mandalay Bay, Fine Living Network, Microsoft and EchoStar.
Tying in with the MAGIC trade show in Las Vegas, which runs through Thursday, Perry Ellis staged a fall fashion show at the mall Tuesday and Quiksilver has been running ads at the mall during the week. Advertisers can run ads on stationary panels or on large LED screens. Eventually, Rouse, based in Columbia, Md., expects the sponsorships to contribute $10 million annually at the property.
“Las Vegas is a unique market. We are not at all suggesting that we will replicate in other locations what we have there. But we are learning things and we have been working on taking pieces from our experience in Fashion Show and running with it across our portfolio,” said Duke Kassolis, Rouse’s executive vice president of asset management. “It’s about creating an experience for the customer and elevating it.”
At Rouse’s Fashion Mall, some companies advertise for a few days or a week during a specific convention — such as WWDMAGIC or the Consumer Electronics Show — while others, including GM and Mandalay Bay, have committed to long-term deals. Access Hollywood signed a long-term contract to run every hour a five-minute blurb on the screens on the mall’s exterior facing the Strip. Auto companies have used Fashion Show as a stage to launch products, sometimes renting space for an evening. Rouse works with Clearchannel Spectracolor on selling ad space.
Such prime Rouse properties as Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston or South Street Seaport in Manhattan eventually could be included in the program. So could The Shops at La Cantera, a 1.3- million-square-foot, open-air center under construction in San Antonio. It’s scheduled to open in September 2005, with key tenants including Neiman Marcus, Foley’s, Dillard’s and Nordstrom.
However, these other Rouse centers don’t have the sophisticated and oversized indoor and outdoor advertising technology that Fashion Show installed last October, as part of a two-year renovation and expansion. Vegas is in an increasingly competitive retail market, with the Forum Shops at Caesars expanding out to the Strip, and The Desert Passage in The Aladdin getting overhauled. There’s also retailing in the Venetian and Bellagio hotels. Rouse officials maintain that the Fashion Show, with seven anchors and scores of specialty stores, serves the 1.6 million people that live and work in Las Vegas, as well as the tourist market.
“When we first got started in the expansion and redevelopment of Fashion Show we recognized the importance of having a face on the Las Vegas Strip that could compete with everything else on the Strip,” said Kassolis. “Our goal was to create something that was larger than life.”
So Rouse created the “cloud,” a 400-foot-wide, 2-million-pound steel structure that provides shade and serves as a projection screen at night and also has four high-capacity LED screens underneath facing the Strip.
Inside, in the atrium of the mall, there is an 80-foot-long retractable runway used for fashion shows. There is also a glass-enclosed “stagebox,” which is also retractable and used for automobile exhibits and other product displays, which are loaded underground. Right above the runway hang three LED screens that are each 7 feet high and 13 feet wide, creating one screen that is 40 feet across.
While the program at the Fashion Show mall does generate revenues, “It’s more important as an experiential differentiator that we hope really fits into the context of the Las Vegas Strip,” Kassolis said. “Also, we will learn from this so we could perhaps begin to take some of these elements to other shopping centers. We are already doing fashion shows at the Village of Merrick Park [lifestyle center in Coral Gables, Fla.].” Other possibilities include broadcasting shows from Las Vegas to other Rouse shopping centers and product introductions that go on the road to a variety of malls.