I Shopped at the American Dream Mall a Week Before Christmas as Covid-19 Cases Surge — Here’s What Happened

The American Dream mall is finally up and running, just in time for the holidays.

In addition to an ice skating rink, indoor water park, and amusement park, the shopping complex has 450 retail stores, including a 300,000-square-foot luxury shopping wing, The Avenue, which opened in September.

For nearly two decades, financial and legal setbacks have delayed the opening of the $5 billion mall. The pandemic exacerbated these issues and forced the mall to close in March, upsetting plans for a grand opening that month. The mall eventually reopened in October after an almost nine-month closure.

Now that the mall is finally open, American Dream developer Paul Ghermezian said that the center is seeing week-over-week increases in foot traffic to attractions and stores.

“We’re seeing now that people are getting more comfortable coming out,” Ghermezian said, adding that he expects the mall to see a “strong holiday season.”

Despite a rough period in the pandemic, shopping centers appear to be on the upswing. In a recent report, foot traffic analytics firm Placer.ai showed that visits to indoor shopping malls on Black Friday increased 82.7% compared to 2020. Traffic was down compared to 2019, which Placer.ai said is partly because of the longer and spread out holiday shopping season this year.

Retail sales have generally been strong the last few months as consumers complete their holiday purchases earlier than ever. November retail sales grew 0.2% from October 2021 and 16.1% from November 2020, led by increases in clothing, sporting goods and furniture stores.

Given the strong numbers thus far, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that sales through Dec. 31 could grow as much as 11.5% year over year.

But with all this growth, is the shopping mall ready for a comeback?

The answer to this question right now is murky, especially as COVID-19 cases surge through the U.S. Still, I went to visit American Dream, one of the country’s largest malls, about a week before Christmas and saw why large retail centers like these might be on the upswing in 2022.

Fabletics American Dream
Fabletics store at American Dream
CREDIT: Shoshy Ciment/Footwear News

Despite widespread inflation and what experts are predicting to be a less promotional holiday season, I saw plenty of sales in stores throughout the mall.

For example, Foot Locker had many items marked down with red signs, in some cases up to 50% off select items.

Foot Locker Sales American Dream
There were plenty of sales to be found at Foot Locker in American Dream.
CREDIT: Shoshy Ciment/Footwear News

I shopped at the mall right around opening time (11:00 a.m.). For the most part, the mall did not seem super busy, but there was a fair amount of people getting their holiday shopping in and strolling through the decorated corridors.

American Dream does require masks for vaccinated visitors, however, some stores had signs that required masks inside. For the most part, people seemed to neglect the masks when walking through the mall.

When it came to foot traffic, some stores were busier than other. At Champs, for example, there was a line of close to 15 people standing outside the store before it even opened.

When it came to product assortment, stores seemed fully stocked with footwear and apparel, despite warnings for shortages this season.

DSW in American Dream Nike
DSW will carry Nike products until 2022
CREDIT: Shoshy Ciment/Footwear News

At DSW, I found a healthy assortment of footwear, including Nike products. Nike is set to stop selling its products through DSW in 2022, as part of a plan to focus more on its DTC channels.

Beyond athletic footwear, the luxury wing has a wide assortment of dressier shoes.

Saks Fifth Avenue shoes
CREDIT: Shoshy Ciment/Footwear News

Saks Fifth Avenue had a massive footwear area that featured brands such as Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin and Chanel. Heels were the main focus of the display, a testament to the long-awaited comeback of dressier shoes.

Saks in American Dream
CREDIT: Shoshy Ciment/Footwear News

While the mall wasn’t bustling with activity, I understood the appeal for experiencing a shopping center like American Dream. If the trend towards recovery from the pandemic continues, American Dream could stand to benefit from increased foot traffic and a renewed desire to shop in person.

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