The Nugget Mall is launching its first image advertising campaign to capture more of the market from Fred Meyer, Marketing Director Kathy Buell said.
Cruise ship crew members have been spending more of their money at Fred Meyer than the mall this year because it can be one-stop shopping, Buell said.
"The mall needs refreshing," Buell said of the ad campaign. "We need people to think of us instead of Fred Meyer."
The latest setback for the mall came Friday when Ritz Camera Centers closed. Ritz, based in Beltsville, Md., sells camera equipment, film and other accessories.
The store wasn't meeting the company's standards for profitability, said Stephen Lamastra, senior vice president for corporate strategy. Ritz is keeping open its three stores in Anchorage, two of which are located in regional malls and another in a strip center, he said Thursday.
"This is a store that we've been looking at for some time," Lamastra said. "It's a challenge to operate a store that's so far from our other nearest stores."
Juneau's isolated location prevented the company from the best use of its resources, Lamastra said. Stores in close proximity can better pool advertising dollars, Buell said.
In January, KayBee Toy & Hobby closed about 375 stores nationwide, including one at the Nugget Mall and its other Alaska locations. The stores were either underperforming or did not fit with corporate strategic plans, the company said.
Buell will launch the image campaign this September in newspaper, television and radio markets. The same message will be sent to all three mediums for at least three months. Details of the campaign have not been determined.
"The mall has always advertised, but we've never had an image behind it." Buell said.
Fred Meyer stays competitive by keeping a fresh image in such areas as store design, lighting and merchandise, said Mary Loftin, vice president of public relations at corporate headquarters in Portland, Ore. The company strives to remodel stores every 10 years, she said.
"In order to stay competitive, what Fred Meyer has found is we must stay fresh and keep our stores up to date," Loftin said.
The mall, owned by Loveless Tollefson Properties in Bellevue, Wash., underwent a lighting and interior design improvement about five years ago, mall property manager Bud Jaeger said. The mall sign has not been upgraded recently, he said.
Surrounding retailers can benefit from consumers who use Fred Meyer as a destination, Loftin said. For example, consumers who travel to the Mendenhall Valley to shop at Fred Meyer may visit other retailers in the Valley.
Fred Meyer has kept pace with national demographic changes so it knows who its customers are, Loftin said. The population is getting older, so Fred Meyer now offers periodic senior citizen discount days. It installed more benches in its stores, she said.
Merchants at Nugget Mall are responsible for advertising and selling their own wares, but Juneau does face some economic challenges, Jaeger said.
Juneau's population of about 30,000 and its limited radius can be a disadvantage to the mall because of how national retailers determine where to locate, he said.
National stores often make decisions on a state-by-state basis and use a population of 50,000 as a benchmark, Jaeger said. They often do not take into account that residents in other Southeast communities come to Juneau to shop, he said.
Merchants also face a time when customers have more product choices and are educated about cost and quality, Buell and Jaeger said.
Fred Meyer isn't the only competition for Juneau's small stores, in or out of malls.
Fred Meyer sells camera equipment and accessories. But Art Sutch, owner of Art Sutch Photography & Digital Imaging downtown, said he's feeling bigger competition from Costco and the Internet.
Sutch carries more higher-end equipment than does Fred Meyer. But Costco will sell a high-quality camera at a competitive price right before a manufacturer launches a new model, he said.
Eileen Plate, co-owner of Front Street Photo downtown, said she's feeling more competition from the burgeoning digital camera industry. Many consumers do not print out their digital photos but keep them on their computer.
With the Ritz closure, there are five vacancies in the Nugget Mall.
"It's normal in a mall to have some vacancies," Jaeger said. "It's no different from any streetside business. In a mall, you're congregated in a smaller area so it's more noticeable."
Jaeger, who has managed the mall for 12 years, does not recall the mall ever being at full occupancy, he said.
The 130,000-square-foot mall has 37 businesses and will celebrate its 30th anniversary this November. Jaeger said he did not have an immediate replacement lined up for the Ritz space.
One end of the mall is anchored by Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts. Lyle's and Jensen's Home Furnishings of Juneau occupies the 20,000-square-foot space at the other end, and uses it mostly as a warehouse.
Tenants are required to sign a five-year lease, Jaeger said. Larger stores generally want leases of about 10 years, he said, because of the set-up costs. Mall rents range from $1.75 to $2.25 per square foot depending on the store's size. Smaller stores typically pay higher rates, he said.
Buell also hopes to bring in more customers by offering more events at the mall, she said.
The mall will bring back its flea market on July 31. A used-boat show will occur July 31 and Aug. 1 in the mall parking lot. A back-to-school fair will be held Aug. 14, and Youth Day is scheduled for Sept. 4.
Youth Day will feature nonprofit organizations that have activities for youths, including fall sports sign-ups. A couple of candidate days will be held in August and closer to the Nov. 2 national election.
She wants to bring back mall-wide sales such as Harvest Moon Madness.
By Jan. 1, Buell wants to have an event at the mall every weekend, she said.
"My job is to get the people through the doors and it's up to the merchants to get them to their stores," she said.
Tara Sidor can be reached at email@example.com.
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