The idea of adding a major entertainment center to a shopping mall has been gaining popularity over the past few years. Several of these so called 'mega-malls' have been constructed in various regions of the country, with substantial square footage allocated to large-scale entertainment centers. The first major entertainment mall was probably the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, which came complete with a full amusement park and indoor surfing. Some of the largest U. S. entertainment malls now include The Mall of America in Minnesota, Forest Fair Mall in Cincinnati, River Fair Mall in Louisville, North Park Mall in Davenport, Iowa, and the Sawgrass Mills Mall in Florida. The entertainment centers in these mega-malls typically feature attractions like: carrousels, ferris wheels, trains, bumper cars and other children's rides, skill games, bowling alleys, miniature golf courses, roller or ice skating rinks, and video arcades.

The generally accepted notion within the industry is that such entertainment centers can substantially extend a mall's draw, lengthen shopper stays, and increase revenues for tenants. Patterson (1994) points out that entertainment centers function as anchors in malls, "they are a traffic generator without being a competitor with smaller specialty stores". Risley (1990), further points out that "there is a growing recognition in the industry that fun and games - if done properly - not only can attract shoppers but also can improve the bottom line".

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Forest Fair Mall, in Cincinnati, which was on the brink of filing for bankruptcy in 1989, is said to have saved itself from disaster by installing rides and games. Forrec International of Toronto Canada, calculates that major amusements can extend a mall's draw by as much as five times current industry averages. Whereas shopping centers used to be in the business of selling only merchandise, they now see themselves as being in the business of providing fun and entertainment, and an enjoyable family shopping experience.

In fact, this growing trend, and the success of most of these mega-malls has mall developers now looking at other attractions in addition to amusement rides, e. g. , theme museums, aquariums etc. However, there has been very little academic research done across different malls that lends support to these arguments about the substantial benefits provided by entertainment centers. Most of the available research studies are those done by individual malls which have primarily dealt with the amount of patronage at the entertainment centers and the mall in general, and the overall draw of the mall.

There has been almost no focus on the exact extent to which the existence of an entertainment center impacts the shopping behavior of consumers in terms of the distance traveled to reach the mall, the amount of time and money spent at the mall, and the extent of patronage at other mall stores. The present study examines the impact of such entertainment centers by investigating the characteristics and shopping behavior of consumers who visit the entertainment centers, and comparing these to the characteristics and shopping behavior of customers who did not visit the entertainment centers.

The concept of 'entertainment' is hard to define in the context of a shopping center. It could be viewed in a very narrow sense as consisting of just fides, games, and shows, or in a broad sense as a combination of the entire shopping experience. The present study, however, focuses specifically on common area entertainment centers within malls, operationally defined as a concentrated, centralized, entertainment area of at least 30,000 square feet and containing a variety of entertainment opportunities, including various types of rides for children, carrousels, miniature golf courses, soft play structures, simulator rides, etc.

Although malls have traditionally offered several different types of entertainment options, it is this category that has seen the most growth in recent years. Most previous academic research studies have treated such entertainment centers as just one additional characteristic of a shopping center which could be included in retail gravitational models to predict consumer patronage of shopping centers or the market potential of a particular location.

Such gravitation models have traditionally included factors such as distance and travel time, size of a shopping area, characteristics of the shopping center, consumer characteristics, and the cost of shopping to consumers (Craig, Ghosh, & McLafferty, 1984). In terms of shopping center patronage, Bellenger et al. (1977) found that some consumers placed the greatest value on convenience and economic attributes including convenience to home, accessibility, and the presence of services such as banks and restaurants.

Others, however emphasized recreational attributes including atmosphere, fashionability, variety of stores and merchandise. More recent studies have supported these results on the importance of recreational attributes including atmospherics (Donovan & Rossiter, 1982); pleasurable shopping experiences (Dawson, Bloch, & Ridway, 1990); and the social aspects of mall shopping (Feinberg, Sheffler, Meoli, & Rummel, 1989; Jarboe & McDaniel, 1987). However, as mentioned earlier, there has been very little academic research on mega-malls and the effects of entertainment centers in such malls on consumer behavior.

Most of the research conducted on this relatively recent phenomenon has been done by either mall developers in specific malls (e. g. , Stiller & Smith, 1992) or by private research agencies which provide a fee-based information service (e. g. , U. L. I. Publications). These studies have primarily focused upon defining the trading area of the mall, the consumer characteristics, and the extent of patronage at various stores and entertainment centers. Testimonials to the effectiveness of the entertainment centers seem to be based not so much on this research as on the gut instinct of developers and the success of most of the mega-malls.

For example, John Denlinger, the vice president of operations for Time-Out Amusements Inc. , an operator of entertainment centers, says that such entertainment centers "are helping attract people from farther away, encouraging them to bring the whole family to the mall, and getting them to shop more once they are there". James Ginsberg, vice-president of Recreational Concepts Inc. , also an operator of such entertainment centers has similar views, "if malls get people into their centers, they will stay longer.

This is especially true in the case of people coming from longer distances, who to justify the time spent getting there, are more likely to spend more money because they are there" (Bivins 1989, p. 23). None of these statements, however, are supported by any published research findings. The present study seeks to provide this support by investigating the effects of the entertainment centers on the shopping behavior of consumers. In particular, the characteristics and shopping behavior of consumers who visit the entertainment centers is investigated and compared to the characteristics and shopping behavior of consumers who do not.

Factors investigated include the distance traveled to reach the mall, demographic characteristics and group composition, the amount of time and money spent at the mall stores, the department stores, and the food court. Hypotheses were developed based mainly on the comments cited in the literature and reasonable assumptions. Hypothesis 1: Consumers who visit the entertainment centers are more likely to have traveled a greater distance to reach the mall as compared to the distance traveled by consumers who do not visit the entertainment centers.

One of the most frequent comments in the literature is that a family entertainment center benefits a mall by "extending a mall's draw", or drawing consumers from a larger geographical area. The assumption is that the additional attraction of a large family entertainment center will encourage consumers to drive a longer distance to reach the mall than they would normally have driven. In fact, taking this fact as a given, some industry experts have even gone on to say that since these consumers are driving a longer distance to reach the mall, they are likely to stay longer and spend more.

Hypothesis 2: Consumers who visit the entertainment centers are more likely to be visiting as a family with young children than consumers who do not visit the entertainment centers. By definition the entertainment centers are family oriented and feature attractions that appeal to small children. It would seem reasonable to assume therefore that shoppers who visit the entertainment centers are more likely to be visiting as a family with young children than shoppers who do not visit the center.

Hypothesis 3: Consumers who visit the entertainment centers are likely to spend more time and money shopping at mall stores and department stores as compared to consumers who do not visit the entertainment centers. This is also a comment which is mentioned frequently in the literature. The assumption is that consumers who visit the entertainment centers spend a longer time at the mall and hence spend more time and money shopping at the malls other stores and department stores.

Hypothesis 4: Consumers who visit the entertainment centers are more likely to visit the food court and spend more money there as compared to consumers who do not visit the entertainment centers. Although the impact of the entertainment centers on the food court in particular is not mentioned in the literature, it would seem reasonable to assume that consumers who visit the entertainment centers are also more likely to visit the food court. These consumers are likely to spend a longer time at the mall, in an area which in most cases is located close to the food courts. They might herefore be more likely to visit the food court.

Unlike most previous research on malls with large scale entertainment centers, which focused only on one specific mall, this study attempts to study consumer behavior across several different malls located in different areas of the country. Data were collected from 1,592 respondents from four different malls [Appendix A]. River Fair Mall in Louisville (248 respondents), Forest Fair Mall in Cincinnati (425 respondents), North Park Mall in Davenport, Iowa (419 respondents), and Woodline Center Mall in Toronto, Canada (500 respondents).

The entertainment centers at these malls fit our operational definition of common area entertainment centers, since each had a concentrated, centralized, entertainment area of at least 30,000 square feet with a variety of entertainment opportunities, including various types of rides for children, carrousels, miniature golf courses, soft play structures, simulator rides, etc. The geographic locations of these four malls in different regions of the U. S. and Canada also provides some amount of generalizability for our results.

The survey instrument was a structured personal interview questionnaire, administered by trained market research agency personnel. Interviewers conducted mall intercept exit interviews on a random sample of mall shoppers. Questions focused on the following issues - distance traveled to reach the mall, whether the respondents had visited the entertainment center and the food court that day, number of department stores and mall stores visited, amount of time and money spent at the entertainment center, the food court, and other stores, and various demographic variables.

Overall, our sample of 1,592 respondents from four different malls included 424 families, with one or more children. Median income levels were $25,000 - $50,000. The largest percentage (66%) were between the ages of 18-44, and 18% were students. A majority, 85. 5% were Caucasian while 13. 3% were African American. Average time spent at the mall was 2 hours, with an average of $17 spent at the mall stores. Thirty-two percent of the total respondents had actually visited the entertainment center that day, for an average of 23 minutes and had spent an average of $7.

Hypothesis 1: Consumers who visit the entertainment centers are more likely to have traveled a greater distance to reach the mall as compared to the distance traveled by consumers who do not visit the entertainment centers The results of a T-Test comparing the mean number of miles traveled by consumers who visited the entertainment center and consumers who did not, showed no significant differences between the two groups ([Alpha] - . 05). Similar results were obtained when each mall was analyzed separately.

Only River Fair Mall in Cincinnati showed a difference that was marginally significant at the [Alpha] - . 10 level of significance. This hypothesis therefore was not supported. Consumers who were visiting the entertainment center did not appear to be traveling a longer distance to reach the mall. The entertainment center by itself did not seem to extend the mall's draw. Hypothesis 2: Consumers who visit the entertainment centers are more likely to be visiting as a family with young children than consumers who do not visit the entertainment centers.

Seventy-two percent of respondents who visited the entertainment center were families with children under the age of twelve, whereas only 20% of respondents who did not visit the entertainment center were families. Further, 75. 6% of all respondents who came to the mall with young children (under 12) visited the entertainment center. These results supported the hypothesis, showing that the entertainment center seemed more likely to attract consumers who were visiting the mall with young children.

Hypothesis 3: Consumers who visit the entertainment centers are likely to spend more time and money shopping at mall stores and department stores as compared to consumers who do not visit the entertainment centers. T-Tests were used to compare the mean amount of time and money spent by the two groups of respondents, those who visited the entertainment centers and those who did not. The results indicated that respondents who visited the entertainment center spent significantly less time ([Alpha] = . 05) shopping, although the total amount of time they spent at the mall was higher (because of the time they spent at the entertainment centers).

The number of mall stores visited was not significantly different between the two groups, although the amount of money spent at mall stores by consumers who visited the entertainment centers was significantly less than consumers who did not visit the entertainment centers. There was a significant difference between the two groups in terms of the number of department stores visited and the amount of money spent at the department stores. The consumers who visited the entertainment centers tended to visit far fewer department stores and spent much less money at these stores than the other group.