Proposed: Use Malls as Disney-Style Day Parks

28Jun09

I got this idea:  Golden Corral and other buffet-style restaurants could sell day passes.  You could have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all in one restaurant.  Problem:  at least until we have fingerprint or retinal identification, they could have people sharing their day passes with friends.  Instead of stuffing one person, which could require a large but limited amount of food, they might be stuffing three different people, each of whom used Golden Corral as their big meal of the day.

So it seemed that a solution might be to incorporate the buffet restaurant into a mall, as some already are.  Malls are struggling, as shoppers cut back and become savers.  But what if a mall converted itself into a place like Disney World, where you’d pay admission to enter the mall, and then you’d be entitled to use the whole thing all day for free?  There would still be some stores there, where you could buy things; but your day pass would entitle you to a lot of things without additional charge.

The buffet restaurant would be one example of what might be included in your day pass.  Another example:  they could use part of the parking lot as a water park that they could convert, in winter, into an ice rink.  (Could you still use a slide lined with ice?)  Or a gym or climbing wall.  They might also just have a very nicely maintained little park, where you could sit out and maybe have elegant tea with friends in your own gazebo — and in winter they might enclose the gazebo.

Presently vacant stores could be converted into funhouses, county-fair-style amusements, and McDonald’s-style play areas for kids.  A redundant floor of the flagship store (e.g., Sears, Penney’s) could become a bowling alley or year-round miniature golf course.  Extensions could include a pool or a greenhouse.  Hallways might become specialty aisles — with one (indoors or semi-outdoors) given over, for instance, to a genuine, relatively gritty county-fair atmosphere.  A bicycle, jogging, or walking track (or even a go-cart track) with pedestrian overpasses might encircle the place.

If people hung around for the whole day, they might do more shopping.  They might also do a different kind of shopping.  At different times of day, different needs might emerge.  For example, if people felt relaxed enough to take naps in their own little coves somewhere, there might be a store of sleep-related merchandise (e.g., specialty pillows, waterfall noisemakers) nearby.

Different levels of daily passes might include different services.  A platinum daypass might include unlimited use of a spa, perpetual parties (one for adults, one not), movie rooms, and reading alcoves.

The concept could be extended beyond single days.  A weekly pass could be affordable enough to offer as a gift, and might be made special by including a 10% discount at jewelry stores.  A specialized weekly pass could offer one free appointment with each of a variety of different life-cleaning services (a financial consultant, a lawyer, a time consultant, a rug-cleaner, a kitchen cleaner).  Basically, week passes could be designed to provide whatever people might like to do in a week’s vacation.  There could also be longer-period passes.  For instance, an annual pass might include a membership to the Sam’s Club at one end of the mall.

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