Sobered by store closings and the rise of online shopping, owners of U.S. shopping centers are filling space and drawing visitors by turning to unusual tenants like gun ranges and go-cart tracks.
Mall giant Simon Property Group Inc. opened an aquarium in July at its Grapevine Mills mall near Dallas. Real-estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. put a fencing academy in a former Old Navy store in Florida's Tallahassee Mall, and a community theater on the lower level of a former Boscov's store in Harrisburg, Pa.
Even top performing mall companies—like Simon, which reported a 19% rise in earnings Tuesday—are looking at restaurants, entertainment and other nonretail uses as a hedge against the drain from online shopping. Glimcher Realty Trust purposefully filled 25% of its upscale Scottsdale Quarter mall near Phoenix with restaurants such as Stingray Sushi and services like Drybar, a salon that specializes in blow drying women's hair. "She can't go out to lunch and have a salad and a glass of wine with her girlfriends online," Glimcher Chairman and CEO Michael Glimcher said, referring to the mall industry's coveted female shoppers.
The Arms Room gun range near Houston had a mixed reception. Mr. James's attorneys advised him to seek written statements from Target and Home Depot declaring that they didn't object to his business opening in their shopping center. Home Depot agreed, but Target declined, Mr. James said. (Target declined to comment). Later, representatives of PetSmart Inc. thanked him for boosting the center's customer traffic.