Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tucson Tuesdays: La Encantada Shopping Center

I've been to La Encantada Shopping Center twice. La Encantada is an "intimate, open-air lifestyle center with extensive landscaping, upscale shops, walkways, patios and courtyards that invite pedestrian interaction."

Located on the northwest corner of Skyline Drive and Campbell Avenue, the shopping center has a very specific demographic - upper class Tucsonans, who are probably in the 35-75 age range and who probably live in the Foothills.

The stores are not "young" in taste - they are the classy, older set - Pottery Barn, Talbots, Coldwater Creek, J.Jill, and Crate & Barrel. You won't find GAP, American Eagle, Old Navy, Target, or H & M here.

The actual design of the shopping center is nice - I like the indoor/outdoor combination, especially since we live in sunny Arizona where the warm, balmy weather greets us nine months out of the year. The walkways are pretty and the landscaping is well-manicured.

But something seems still and cold about the center. It lacks vibrancy, vitality, youthfulness, authenticity, something...I always feel a bit of a chill there, a strange feeling that I don't quite fit in with the pretension, the brand names, and...yikes!...the price tags!

In my opinion, these factors are what have made La Encantada only a lukewarm success. Many of the store slots are empty and the center is strangely quiet - dead.

By targeting the older and richer segment of the population so narrowly, Westcor has excluded the "rest of us" - the families, the singles, the young couples just starting out, the moms and babies, and the college students. We just don't feel comfortable there. We want more color, more splash, more noise. We want to feel welcome in our Target t-shirts and our Old Navy flip flops. We want to be able to let our babies cry, our toddlers squeal, and our kids run about...without feeling out-of-place.

The La Encantada concept hasn't worked because, when the developers planned it, they forgot about "us."

Of course, I don't like to criticize without offering some solutions. As a Tucson resident, I actually desperately want La Encantada to succeed. Here's what I think the resident marketing specialist should do:

1. Get "younger" stores to fill the empty spots that are still for rent.
2. Start a weekly "Kids Club." It could be anything - a story time, a puppet show, a dance production, a meet and greet with a storybook character, etc.
3. Re-think the marketing campaign. Focus on authenticity and inclusion. Make it a place for everyone.
4. Plan several key events to re-introduce the center to the community. Be especially conscious of families in the planning process. Invite a face painter. Give away a stroller. Offer free lemonade.
5. Create a "Moms Panel." Select 5 social and influential moms (perhaps host a contest of some sort to find them...) to shop at La Encantada and provide reviews about the stores, the prices, and the fun things to do. As the experts say, word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective kind...and moms are an important market audience.

Fellow Tucsonans, raise your voice. What do you think about La Encantada? Is my synopsis accurate? What suggestions do you have?


Ashley said...

I couldn't agree more. The only time I can get to La Encantada is when I don't have our kiddos. I brought them with me a few times, and each time they made a sound all heads turned around to see who was making noise. I really didn't care, why should mom's have to "stay away", because we have our children in tow.

On the other hand, when I do head in that direction, I love to visit Williams Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, Yankee Candle, Pottery Barn and L'Occitane En Provence (they have the best home fragrance spray for Christmas time,it smells just like a pine tree). I can only enjoy myself there when I don't have my wonderful explorers. I am so scared that they are going to break something.
That said, La Encantada is NOT KID FRIENDLY.
Hop on a committee, Stephanie, I'll join you.

amylgam said...

Frankly, the only time we go to La Encantada is when we have to go to the Apple Store. And, I seriously mean "have to," as in, my MacBook is on life support.

But then, we also live on the SE side so it's a bit of a trip to get up there anyway, I don't know that I'd really go up there much more often for better atmosphere.

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