By MARK J. MILLER
STEUBENVILLE - The Mall at Robinson was discussed during the city Rotary's Friday luncheon meeting at the city YWCA.
MALL AT ROBINSON AT ROTARY — Beth Edwards, left, general manager of the Mall at Robinson, and Shema Krinsky, mall marketing director, discussed the mall, its history and its future, during the Friday luncheon meeting of the Steubenville Rotary Club at the Steubenville YWCA. — Mark J. Miller
Beth Edwards, general manager of the Mall at Robinson, and Shema Krinsky, mall marketing director, told Rotarians the history of the mall and its growth. Edwards said the mall is owned by parent company Forest City, which owns 23 malls across the U.S.
"(Forest City) actually began as a lumber company about 90 years ago," said Edwards, adding the company has aggressively diversified into a company capable of building and managing commercial, residential and even military properties. "It's the only developer that can build it from the ground up and then manage it. The majority of (malls owned by the company) are on the West Coast."
Locally, the company owns Station Square in Pittsburgh and the Mall at Robinson, she said. The economic downturn had an impact on the mall in 2008, but Edwards said growth is coming back.
"We're finally starting to see some interest in our area," she said, adding two new hotels are scheduled to be built in 2014. "We (currently) have 120 stores in the mall."
Construction on the mall began on 146 acres in 1989, although "We started with Kaufmann's department store in 1988," said Edwards. The $130 million investment led to the mall opening in October of 2001, she added.
"Almost 3,000 employees of Forest City were there for our grand opening," Edwards said.
At the time the mall boasted cutting-edge technology, such as large-screen TVs, Internet kiosks shoppers could use, a nursing room, family restroom and soft seating areas, she said.
Krinsky said when the mall opened officials wanted to set its apart from Pittsburgh-area malls through provocative advertising.
"We needed something a little different," she said, adding the advertising campaign was "in your face and meant to catch your attention. It was a great way to open."
The advertising was aimed at a younger demographic interested in fashions, and "more than 58 percent (of the mall) is built on fashions," added Krinsky.
The Mall at Robinson recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, which was a challenge, according to Edwards.
"Fifty-six percent of our leases were 10-year leases," she said, adding the date also affected the mall's financing. "We had to scramble in 2010 to get those leases signed. Also, after 10 years we required those renewing leases to do remodels. We had a whole new look by 2012."
Edwards also said the mall is very green-friendly, with programs now in place for complete recycling programs as well as efficient energy usage.
"We recycle pretty much everything at the mall," Edwards said. "We recycle every bit of cardboard in the mall."
Mall officials also are working on constructing solar panels on top of the food court entrance canopy. Lighting at the mall is programmed, so while still safe, the mall saved 24 percent in electric costs since beginning its green program, she added.
Krinsky said the mall tries to be community-driven by working with local nonprofit organizations, as well as being innovative in advertising ways consumers wish.
"It's important you engage your shoppers," she said, adding the Internet and social networks are important venues for advertising. "You need to reach out to them the way they want to hear it."
One program includes the mall partnering with KDKA-TV by dressing female anchors in modern fashions available through merchants at the mall, said Krinsky.
"We also focus on events," she said, adding the mall often uses celebrities to lure shoppers to some events. "Last year was the first year we opened at midnight on Black Friday. We almost had to because of our competitors opening early."
The mall advertised its Black Friday campaign around the theme "Shop Like a Rock Star," said Krinsky. She added the mall strives to market around cultural trends.
The mall's website is www.shoprobinsonmall.com.