Less than three months after announcing that Ken Downing was joining retail group Triple Five as chief creative officer, the company kicked off American Dream’s first media campaign in anticipation of the location’s opening later this fall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Downing, who was formerly fashion director at Neiman Marcus, led the campaign with a video on the American Dream Instagram in late June, discussing the ideas and values behind the launch of the shopping center, including diversity and inclusivity. The company will continue to push the messaging through social and is enlisting user-generated content into its feed by encouraging shoppers to send in videos that detail what the American dream means to them.
“People talk about retail having such a difficult time, and I think it’s because of a lack of creativity and theater,” he said. “It’s a lack of those big cinematic moments. Often a shopping experience in a large facility can be very stagnant. But we have a 60-foot fountain that can be reconfigured to become a runway. We are bringing in emerging and young talent from all around the country to design and decorate different parts of the location. The whole place is designed to be reconfigured, to be changeable in a way a lot of these big retail locations spaces aren’t.”
Downing is betting that this combination of over-the-top spectacle, like an indoor ski-slope, and constantly rotating tangential shopping experiences, like fashion shows and art installations, will keep customers coming back regularly.
“In today’s marketplace, consumers want more out of a shopping trip than just the physical item itself,” said Krista Corrigan, retail analyst at Edited. “They’re looking for an experience to remember and one they can share with their family and friends. In the same vein, retailers are desperate to drive traffic back into stores and experiential retail is one way to achieve that. This can be risky, of course, if the investment does not translate into dollars spent by the consumer. However, retailers today have little choice if they want to stay competitive.”
While no official date has been set for the grand opening other than fall 2019, Downing said the date will be announced sometime this summer. Until then Downing said he is working on ensuring that American Dream does not fall prey to the pitfalls of other large retail locations, namely the danger of feeling stagnant, oppressive or irrelevant when customers can get whatever they want quickly and conveniently through other channels.
“No matter what decade or era we live in or how much shopping changes, from brick-and-mortar to online, the customer is always at the center of every conversation,” Downing said. “More than ever, they are in the driver’s seat.”