Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s the mall was the go-to place to hangout with friends, run a few errands and bump into people from the neighborhood.
Since the rise of the internet and eCommerce, however, the activity best known as mall ratting has seen a decline. More consumers have started to buy their goods online versus making a physical trip to the mall, which has resulted in somewhat desolate buildings.
One company looking to turn foot traffic around and increase sales in malls is Santa Monica–based startup, Happy Returns, with its Return Bars. These return areas are stationed at mall kiosks and staffed with “Returnistas” who process items bought online that consumers are interested in returning. The idea is to get people into the mall for these returns in hopes that they’ll spend time in the building and make purchases.
So far, this tactic has been a success for the Happy Returns company. In its six-month pilot test with Tradesy, it found seven out of 10 wouldn’t have made the trek out to the mall if it weren’t for this return option. And while consumers were out at the mall making these returns, the research also found out that 44 percent planned to shop, eat or see a movie while there. It sounds as though these return bars are having a positive impact on the mall shopping experience.
Happy Returns’ CEO, David Sobie, commented to Chain Store Age about how his company decided to pick a location for their return bars and the research it did to learn consumers’ pain points. He said, “Before we launched, we did consumer surveys asking online shoppers where they’d like our return bars to be. Overwhelmingly, shopping malls kept getting mentioned. If I buy a pair of jeans online, sure, I can package them up and send them back myself, but that doesn’t solve my problem, which is finding a pair of jeans that fit.”
After launching in six malls across the nation, Happy Feet plans to open up nearly 40 locations in the top 15 cities by December of this year.