Mayor of the Mall

 Admittedly this content is dated.  Yet it is timeless as well.

I was recently catching up on some downloads on my iPod and I stumbled upon Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life’s holiday broadcast. 

But before you dismiss the rest of this post as dated venture, consider first the benefits of looking at something out of its original context and second the idea that this content truly is timeless.

The setting for this episode was the Cool Springs Galleria Mall in Franklin, Tennessee.  This is neat because it is a random setting away from their Chicago studio and because the mall sits on a parcel of land not five miles from my childhood home.

Now I’ve talked about This American Life before in my iPod Favorites article and I highly recommend it.  I think I called it a spa treatment for the brain.  In each episode they select a topic and offer 3 or 4 short stories that involve the theme; highly entertaining and thought provoking without fail.

The theme for the holiday episode was a composite of the holiday season (obviously) in the context of the economic downturn.  And what better setting for this intersection than a suburban mall?

Of the roughly 5 stories in this episode, one revealed a simple genius.  The principle of the story was Jeanie, the franchise owner of a Chik-fil-a in the mall food court.  She demonstrated a business savvy that any of us would do well to emulate.

  • Treat the customer well – Jeanie fished in the trash to find a coupon for a mother shopping with her children and she called all her male customers ‘sir’, even the obnoxious kids who treated the mall as their personal romper room – I added most of that last part for effect as Jeanie is much too professional for that.
  • Capitalize on your downtime – During slow times she walked the mall to meet all the store managers and build upon those relationships – she even expressed her desire to be the “Mayor of the Mall” – her words
  • Know your true customer – Recognizing that a full 50% of her sales came from mall employees she strove to make personal connections with those folks.  She shared a story of sending out an employee dressed as the brand’s “Eat More Chikin” cow to take pictures with the employees from each story.  She then commented that when she delivered the pictures she was able to have “two touches” with her largest steady customer base. Spoken like a true corporate tycoon rather than a food court sandwich jockey.

For Jeanie, the results were tangible.  In a mall with a number of stores on the brink of closure, she was enjoying a 10% boost in sales over the same period a year earlier.

Congratulations to Jeanie and thanks for sharing compelling business truths alive and well even in an unlikely setting.

As further encouragement to check out this episode I’ll tease 2 more compelling stories:

  • Russell (19) and his girlfriend Chandler (18) demonstrate such an innate comprehension and passion for business that I virtually guarantee they will be millionaires early in life. What do they do today that makes me say this?  He sells cell phones and she is a waitress at Sonic…. Yeah, this is a can’t miss segment 
  • Santa Fight Club… the title really needs no more tease than that, but imagine competing factions of Santa’s fighting over how they play their reindeer games and you don’t even start to see how wild a ride this story runs.

Here’s a link to the show… I promise it will be worth your time! 

This American Life: Scenes from the Mall

If you don’t comment here after reading…. I hope you will after listening!

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Category: Recommendations

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