BOZEMAN-Just 10 years ago malls were the epicenter of American entertainment, but now online shopping accounts for more than 14% of retail sales.
Malls across the country are going empty and shutting down but not in Bozeman.
“We really worked at it to maintain our occupancy levels,” Deb Jacupke the General Manager of the Gallatin Valley Mall said.
Jacupke has worked in the mall industry for many years, having experience with larger shopping centers in California, she brings her expertise here.
“I will tell you that there is no script right now,” Jacupke said, “truthfully we are feeling our way along but we know that we have a vital market.”
She explains that the name of the game for staying open is evolution and experience.
Bringing in things like massage and vision work centers are what is helping to support small shops in the mall.
“We have been really careful in trying to find a mix of stores and activities and food that creates an environment that keeps us alive and going,” Jacupke said.
Jacupke says that nationally stores like Macys and Sears may not be performing well but at the Gallatin Valley Mall that's not the case, the bigger stores are performing well.
Last year alone Macy’s, Payless and Sears closed around 10,000 locations for good but here in Bozeman at the mall it’s a struggle to find a parking spot, which is translating into local businesses making the decision to open a mall storefront.
“We started with a kiosk in the concourse of the mall during Christmas,” Stephanie Hull the manager Montana Gift Corral said.
The mall is attracting local businesses like the Montana Gift Corral. Right now 46% of vendors in the mall are locally owned and they’re choosing the mall for multiple reasons.
“People come here because the parking is convenient, it’s a beautiful warm place to be, it’s easy to come in here with kids,” Hull said.
The mall says having easy parking and being an experience destination is what’s keeping the doors open.
“When you live in smaller towns you really go somewhere to shop and make an experience out of it,” Jacupke said, “Bozeman has become that anchor experience for all the small communities around.”
With shopping centers around the country working to keep you coming in the door, what’s next for the Gallatin Valley Mall is changing daily.
“We are working a number of developments at the moment that’s part of the fact that evolution critical,” Jacupke said.
If you have a unique business story that Bradley needs to look into you can email him by following this link.