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by Christina Stolarz
DetNews.com

Southfield — Shakira Canty had no idea a carnival would be going on at Northland Center in Southfield when she drove by the parking lot.

The 21-year-old Detroit woman was only planning to buy some clothes for her 2-year-old cousin, Kashmere, last week, but opted to hit up both.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” said the Oakland Community College exercise science student. “It will generate more (mall) sales.”

That’s exactly what the management at Northland Center is counting on, since shoppers are getting miserly with their wallets.

In this troubled economy, malls can no longer afford to solely promote goods — books, shoes, electronics — that people want to purchase. Instead, they are thinking outside their four walls to make money — namely, their huge parking lots. They’re hosting carnivals, car shows and haunted houses to generate cash and lure customers into their shops.

And mall managers expect the creative energy to boom this year.

“Everybody is stretched. I know a lot of malls are looking for things to utilize their space,” said Pam Lightbody, marketing manager for Northland and Eastland centers. “It definitely helps, because any type of attraction helps draw customers different than your regular base. It’s a great way to introduce the center to new shoppers.”

Lightbody is hoping the second annual Northland Springfest carnival, which runs through May 3, will do the trick. The mall leased its parking lot for the carnival rides and midway games.

Eastland Center in Harper Woods held weeklong vehicle sales in its lots once every other month for 15 months before large buildings were constructed on the property, she said. The last car sale was in October.

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