Dying malls are realizing resurrection with a little mariachi music, reports Miriam Jordan in The Wall Street Journal (8/15/13). "We come for the mariachi, then we eat something and go shopping," says Gloria Mesina, who along with her daughter and granddaughter were among the Hispanic families swarming the Panorama Mall in Panorama City, California, "on a recent Sunday." Jose Legaspi, in partnership with mall-owner Macerich Company, is the real-estate broker responsible for re-positioning the mall as a Hispanic destination — capitalizing on the population, income and spending growth among Spanish-speaking shoppers.
It’s not a new idea: Jose "made his first foray into a Hispanic-focused mall in 2004," taking a "literally dead" 1.2 million-square-foot mall in Fort Worth, Texas, from 10% occupancy to 90% after transforming it into a destination for Hispanics. He and his backers gave the mall "a Spanish colonial exterior and interior reminiscent of an old Mexican downtown and rebranded it ‘La Gran Plaza‘ in 2006." In 2010, he revived a Phoenix shopping center, turning a vacant Mervyns "into a mercado, housing several Hispanic-owned retail stalls."
In 2011, Jose and Macerich, which owns about 70 malls, launched Vangardia, "an operating program for repositioning existing malls for Hispanics." The five malls in the Vangardia program are seeing average sales per square foot of about "$250 to $300," which is well below the "more than $600 at high-performing malls." So, questions remain about the long-term viability of the Hispanic-mall strategy. However, as economist Ryan Severino notes: "It’s right to go after a group whose population and purchasing power are growing and offer a mall experience that can’t be replicated on the web."