Stuck in the mud, somewhere near the swamps of the New Jersey Meadowlands lies the American Dream. Or so we’ve been told for the last 16 years.
What has been an albatross around the necks of several NJ gubernatorial administrations, the 3-million-square-foot mall by Triple Five Group in East Rutherford, N.J, is finally set to open to the public Oct. 25, 2019. But this mall won’t just be a retail paradise, as the American Dream will boost foot traffic with numerous attractions, including a 300-foot Ferris wheel with views of the Manhattan skyline, a DreamWorks Water Park and a Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park.
And with that promise, American Dream will turn its mansions of glory over to Coca-Cola for a 10-year partnership that will include four large featured integrations—a social lounge for authors, athletes, and musicians, among other celebrities to come and speak to the guests at the American Dream; Coca-Cola branded VIP Green Rooms; a grab-and-go style food hall that seats roughly 800 customers; and finally, the Coca-Cola branded Social Bubble connects with the customer service department, which enables guests to communicate with customer service in real-time via text message or on social media.
But with a struggling mall industry, and years of negative perception for the complex, retail experts say the American Dream must attract customers in order for this partnership to be successful; an understatement for sure.
The American Dream anticipates 40 million visitors annually, but before it even opens, it faces an uphill battle in the current mall climate as shoppers’ habits are quickly changing. A Credit Suisse report found that in the next five years, 20% to 25% of malls will close. And a report from Coresight Research found that retailers have already announced 7,000 store closures in 2019, a number that could reach 12,000 by the end of the year.
“From my conversation with Triple Five, they are running scared,” said Paco Underhill, a retail expert working on a new book about the future of eating and drinking. “They are worried because Mall of America is not working as well as it used to, Edmonton Mall is not working as well as it used to. I wish them the best, but I’m scared this is going to be an extended failure of another project tied to a stadium.”
The New York-New Jersey area is already crammed with 26 other shopping malls all within a 50-mile radius. Additionally, having a giant playground in the shadow of New York City is a tough task, especially if New Yorkers (or tourists to the Big Apple) have to rely on NJ Transit trains or buses to get there.
Adjunct professor at NYU Stern School of Business and co-founder of Metaforce, Allen Adamson added there is not a speedy means of transportation between New York and the American Dream, and “spending three hours in the Lincoln tunnel does not seem like a good use of time when you can double click on Amazon to purchase everything you need and more.”
Haven of entertainment
Put all this aside, American Dream offers an escape, which for a brand like Coca-Cola that leans on “moments” sings the right tune.
“Together with American Dream and our bottling partner Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages,” John Mount, vp of sports marketing and region assets at Coca-Cola said in an email. “Our mission is to create memorable moments and activate the Coca-Cola brand in this truly unique space.”
Adamson imagines that if malls are going to regain relevance than they are going to have to merge with the world of entertainment more.
American Dream plans to do just this. Senior vice president of marketing at American Dream Debbie Patire explained that American Dream aims to bridge the gap between malls and entertainment by dedicating 55% of the space to entertainment, and hopes to have Coca-Cola sponsored athletes like Wayne Rooney speak at the property. Part of the DNA under the Triple five umbrella at both West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America is that 400 events are activated events annually.
American Dream will dedicate the rest of the space to retail with stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York opening.
Coca-Cola will be ever present throughout the massive American Dream compound. Mount states the Coca-Cola brand will seamlessly integrate across all facets of the American Dream community.
Adamson says, only time will tell the achievement of the American Dream.
“As a broad strategy, the partnership with Coca-Cola is the right direction by connecting Coca-Cola to unique, edgy experience the challenge, of course, is like any real estate venture or any experience you don’t know if the American Dream is going to be a hit opening and end up like many malls vacant,” Adamson said.