Mall spending rises, and browsing declines Tab per outing climbs to $66.70, survey finds; Retailing


LAS VEGAS -- Consumer spending at the nation's malls is rising, though shoppers are less willing to spend their time browsing in stores, according to a poll released yesterday by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The average amount spent during a trip to the mall climbed 10 percent to $66.70 last year, from $59.25 the previous year, the survey of 38,000 shoppers found. Spending increased by the greatest percentage at food shops and restaurants.

Only a third of the consumers said they visited malls to window shop.

The retail sector, nevertheless, continues to exert a major impact on the economy, with sales, sales tax revenue and shopping center jobs all increasing -- even at a time when consumers are likely spending less time at malls, said John Konarski, vice president of research for the council, which released its findings on the first day of the group's annual leasing convention here.

In Maryland -- where about 3.6 million people shop in the state's 874 centers each month -- shopping centers generated $778 million in state sales tax on $20.7 billion in sales last year. That was up from tax revenue of $741 million on sales of $19.8 billion in 1996. Jobs inched up 1 percent, to 225,300, according to the survey.

Shopping centers accounted for more than half the state's retail sales, not including auto purchases, the council said. "The impact on the economy is really substantive, even beyond the financial impact," Konarski said.

Nationwide, retail spending at shopping centers totaled $1 trillion last year, up from $970.3 billion in 1996, the council said.

Although sales at nonanchor mall tenants slipped 0.4 percent in March, they increased 2.7 percent in the first quarter, compared with the corresponding period a year ago, the council reported.

"Malls, like anything else, are facing more competition," with many responding by adding entertainment-oriented tenants such as state-of-the-art movie megaplexes and themed-restaurants, Konarski said.

Fewer new shopping centers are being built than in the past, and more of the older malls are being renovated, he said.

In the Baltimore area, several centers are forging new identities, among them Hunt Valley Mall, Towson Marketplace and Glen Burnie Mall, as they face greater competition from newer power centers anchored by mass discounters such as Target.

Three Baltimore area malls are among the 10 largest centers in the state, including White Marsh, the state's third-largest; Security Square mall, the sixth-largest; and Annapolis Mall, the 10th-largest.

Teen-agers, the survey said, are doing more than "hanging out" at the mall.

Teens go to the mall about once a week and spend an average $41 per visit, the poll found. Their parents are likely to spend double that in a single visit, an average $81.10 for consumers in the 45-54 age range.

The typical shopper visits a mall three times a month for one hour and 15 minutes, a trend for the past few years. Consumers tend to make purchases at about half the mall stores they visit.

Those in the highest income brackets -- $75,000 or more -- were found least likely to browse but most likely to attend a special event or movie.

Pub Date: 5/19/98

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