The new youth policy at the Village at Sandhill has been in place for a month, and retailers already are starting to see increased sales heading into the holiday shopping season.
The massive retail center in Northeast Richland in October began restricting people 16 and younger without an adult after 6 p.m. on the weekends.
We caught up with Scott McCarthy, director of property management, for an update on the new policy and the center's preparations for the holidays:
Village at Sandhill implemented a new youth accompaniment policy a month ago. How is it working?
"Wonderful. We're seeing a lot more families. A majority of merchants have seen an increase in their sales on Friday and Saturday nights because of it," he said.
McCarthy said the young people who were hanging out at the center on the weekends were not bad kids, but groups of them were intimidating to shoppers.
"We're a shopping center. I can't tell my merchants to stay open until 9 o'clock if they don't get any customers after 6," he said.
What are you doing to prepare for Black Friday?
Santa will show up the day after Thanksgiving for youngsters who want to rattle off a list of holiday wishes or get their photo taken with him, McCarthy said.
"Santa's little helpers" will be handing out 1,000 canvas totes to adult shoppers stuffed with a couple of dozen coupons and a center directory. Look for two-for-one specials, food specials and coupons for 15 percent to 50 percent off.
The center opens at 8 a.m., but some retailers will open early with specials. McCarthy said the center usually starts getting heavier traffic in the late morning on Black Friday with heavy lunch and dinner crowds.
What will the holidays look like at Village at Sandhill this year?
In addition to Santa, "we're going to have choral groups throughout the season," he said. Churches and schools will participate, as well as GMG Music Center and Rice Music. A high school holiday festival with free hot chocolate is set for Dec. 11.
And the popular horse-drawn carriage rides through the town center will be back, he said. A model train display will be open each weekend after Thanksgiving in a vacant space between Learning Express and Reid's. A new merchant, Santa's Closet, is open in the old Sharper Image space.
The Village's 40-foot Christmas tree has new LED multi-colored lights, and management has added a menorah to the town square.
Check villageatsandhill.com for specifics.
What are you planning for 2010?
"We're going to have more events on Saturday that are going to be family-oriented."
The center probably will move its jazz concert series to Saturday night next fall and ramp up the tempo. Management is hoping to generate a sidewalk sale in January or February and is working on a plan for July 4.
Popular events, such as the summer concert series and Valentine's Day carriage rides, will be back. "All the events that people went to this year and enjoyed themselves, we'll have those again next year."
How is the retail center faring in the economic downturn?
The center is between 80 percent and 90 percent leased, McCarthy said.
The stores that have closed so far this year mostly have been national companies shutting down all their locations. "Only a couple have closed because of sales at this location."
McCarthy said to look for announcements after the first of the year for new stores.