Spring 2015
Block Party, Millennial Style

Simon and Refinery29 join forces to stage The Shopping Block tour, aimed at drawing a younger crowd to malls across America.
Starr Cumming

This past fall, Simon—the nation’s largest retail real estate owner—was looking for a way to elevate its in-mall experience for millennials. Why does Simon care so much about this demographic? According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are America’s newest generation, born from approximately 1981 to 1997. The U.S. Census Bureau says there are 74.8 million millennials in the country.

Refinery29—the largest independent style website in the United States—also studied this group. Its findings showed millennial women of all ages and income groups expressed how mobile, online and social elements all play a critical role in how they shop, often merging their online and in-person experiences.

As a result of those shopping preferences, R29 and Simon decided to collaborate to create an experiential fashion marketplace inspired by the millennial approach to shopping. This meant marrying the digital and physical experiences and maximizing the social aspects of both with The Shopping Block tour.

Simon’s SVP Global Creative Director, Chidi Achara, shepherded the partnership between Simon and R29. He’d previously worked with them in his position with Cole Haan. The planning process for The Shopping Block tour spanned a year. Both companies made sure they worked with the
best in class to design each component of the tour, from the fixtures to the digital equipment. The work of modern artists such as Donald Judd and Dan Flavin inspired the minimalist design of the event.

Simon and R29 launched The Shopping Block in six of Simon’s premier shopping centers across America in the fall of 2014. R29 defines it as “a fashion-packed block party—but in the mall—complete with pop-up shops housing R29 style.” The event was set up in the common area of each mall and was marketed by both Simon and R29 on their websites and social media platforms. The experience included:

Indie Boutiques + National Brands: R29 and the local mall teams worked together to recruit homegrown indie boutiques with local reach and relevance. This created an interplay between the native, in-market shopping experiences and the very best national retail brands—all within the mall landscape. It also gave the boutiques an opportunity to experience mall traffic, which could lead them to become temporary or permanent tenants.

Stylist Concierge: Attendees received a curated style guide that highlighted the season’s most important trends and where to purchase those elements in the mall.

Guest Hosts: R29 and local mall teams worked together to secure a host—local tastemakers in style, fashion and lifestyle industries—for each event.

Sweepstakes: Mall-goers entered a digital sweepstakes for a chance to win retail prizes, valued at a minimum of $1,000, from Simon premier retailers.

Beauty Bars: Makeup artists were on-hand at pop-up beauty bars to give shoppers mini-makeovers and share the latest beauty tips from R29 experts.

DIY Station: Guests had the opportunity to personalize tote bags, taking inspiration from the seasons most recent runway trends.

The epic event was a win for all involved. However, the tour was not just about increasing mall traffic. Achara says, “It was also about thinking about the multi-layered, cross-traffic layers of the event via the R29 website, style-stalking interest, sweepstakes, ad campaigns and social channels.” The Shopping Block experience was enhanced by editorial posts on R29’s website, including a “Found at the Mall” photo series that showcased the street-style sensibility of shoppers. The events were supported through co-branded banners on R29 and Simon’s social channels and Simon’s style blog at stylesetter.simon.com.

Customers were encouraged to share their Shopping Block experiences and discoveries using the hashtags #TheShoppingBlock and #foundatsimon. “We are always looking for ways to build connections with consumers that provide exciting experiences of shopping and discovery,” says Mikael Thygesen, Chief Marketing Officer of Simon. Achara notes that the event was “a huge success for us and showed that Simon has the ability to adapt to shopper’s needs.”

Due to the success of The Shopping Block, Simon and R29 plan to scale up the tour and roll it out to more Simon shopping centers in 2015.

For more information, visit simon.com and refinery29.com.

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