Retail, revised: Grapevine Mills shows potential for shopping centers as entertainment destinations
The Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium is one of several interactive entertainment venues at Grapevine Mills. The venues, which also include Legoland Discovery Center, Fieldhouse USA, Round One Entertainment and Peppa Pig World of Play, among others, drive foot traffic to the retail center. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
“Malls are a little bit risky these days, and most of the stores that we have success [in] are in tourist areas,” Zettler said. “We picked [Grapevine Mills] because the traffic count here was far superior to most of the malls we looked at.”
Data from Placer.ai, a company that tracks consumer foot traffic for retail and real estate companies using mobile data, estimated Grapevine Mills recorded more than 927,000 visits in November. That number compared with over 855,000 for Stonebriar Centre in Frisco, over 712,000 for Galleria Dallas and about 1 million for NorthPark Center during the same month.
Beyond the traditional retail offerings typically seen in shopping malls, Grapevine Mills’ management has emphasized bringing entertainment and other unique venues to its visitors with the addition of Legoland Discovery Center and Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium in 2011, Round One Entertainment in 2016, Fieldhouse USA in 2017 and Peppa Pig World of Play in 2019.
Ed Evans, the general manager of Legoland Discovery Center and Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium, said the location of the mall—between Dallas and Fort Worth—and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport’s proximity were key factors in deciding to bring the respective attractions to Grapevine Mills.
“Being that DFW Airport is an international airport, our location definitely helps us reach those travelers across the country and world easier as an excellent day out during their visit to the area,” Evans said. “As we move into the new year, we strongly feel we will continue to see guests from local areas, the region and across the country as travel gets back to normal levels.”
Grapevine Mills is one of many malls across the country that have adapted to offer a more family-friendly and entertainment-focused experience.
Mark Hunter is the managing director for retail asset services for the Americas at CBRE, a global company in commercial real estate services and investment with offices in Dallas. According to Hunter, The Mills malls—which include Grapevine Mills and its nationwide counterparts such as Katy Mills and Arizona Mills—were among the first large shopping centers to add entertainment offerings to their lists of tenants.
Hunter said adding entertainment offerings can help to extend the length of stay of customers, who may then spend more money during their visit.
“[The shopping centers and malls] started off with mega theaters, and that evolved into many other types of entertainment concepts, whether that be skate parks, NASCAR, virtual reality,” he said.
Hunter said the average length of stay in a mall is about 90 minutes, but when entertainment offerings are added, that average length of stay doubles. Placer.ai data shows visitors to Grapevine Mills stayed an average of 122 minutes in November. About 22% of visitors stayed for more than 150 minutes during that period, and 30% stayed for at least two hours.
Trudy Cresswell, the director of marketing and business development at Grapevine Mills, said the mall has been working to expand and renovate and emphasizes continuously bringing in new tenants.
“We actually look forward to sharing some more announcements throughout the remainder of ,” she said. “We’ve got some really exciting things on the docket.”
The volume of foot traffic seen at Grapevine Mills was a factor in attracting global esports and technology company Vindex, which opened its second U.S. location of Belong Gaming Arenas there on Oct. 17.
“Grapevine Mills mall specifically, it’s a very high-traffic mall...in the North Dallas and the North Texas area where we wanted to have a [presence], and it just made sense to us for those reasons,” said Bob Morris, arenas opening manager for Belong Gaming Arenas.
Dornielle Wallace is the owner of Acai Bowlz, which offers thick smoothie bowls with various toppings. He relocated his business from Music City Mall in Lewisville to Grapevine Mills in May. Wallace said he has seen increased traffic from the move.
“I feel like the mall would be good to build up and get the clientele base,” Wallace said. “I just want to keep doing malls, and then when I get a stand-alone, then [clients] will be like, ‘Oh it’s the same guy in the mall,’ ‘cause if you notice, every store inside the mall has an outside store, too.”
Since it opened more than 24 years ago in 1997, Grapevine Mills has seen plenty of changes and an evolution in its retail offerings. Major chain retailers such as JCPenney and Sears, for example, have come and gone.
Cresswell said offering diverse options gives Grapevine Mills leverage to survive within a constantly changing economy—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic—while also meeting the needs of consumers.
“Grapevine Mills really has an established and steadfast footprint, and they weathered the ebbs and flows of the economy successfully,” she said. “We feel given the market’s very diverse economy, we really do not anticipate that any past, present or potentially future hindrances will have any major impact on our business.”
The mall features 180 shopping, dining and entertainment tenants, according to its website.
“I think they did a phenomenal job of shifting,” Grapevine Chamber of Commerce CEO RaDonna Hessel said. “As the economy changes, people’s shopping habits change. They took a proactive approach of how to benefit the various businesses that were within the mall as well as our community.”
While the increased demand in online shopping has fueled concern about the future of malls, Hunter said there is reason for optimism as many people still prefer the social experience of shopping in person.
“Actually malls, as we come out of the pandemic, are one of the strongest-performing sectors in the country,” he said. “Online sales make up about 20% of retail sales right now. The other 80% are purchased in a physical store.”
With an influx of people moving to North Texas, Grapevine Mills remains a key attraction in the metroplex, Hessel said.
“It was a tremendous regional draw for not just Grapevine, but for the entire area, and it definitely benefited the city through sales tax generation as well as just the tourism aspect of it,” Hessel said. “People coming from outside of the community to spend their money in Grapevine—it also benefits surrounding businesses, i.e. restaurants, hotels, attraction.”