Malls take the Santa ex­pe­ri­ence high-tech

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

NEW YORK: Hop on a vir­tual sleigh ride to the North Pole. Stand on the “Naughty or Nice O’Me­ter.” Snap a selfie and see your face on a danc­ing elf. The Santa ex­pe­ri­ence has got­ten a makeover as many malls in­stall shows and games they hope will lure shop­pers who are buy­ing more on­line.

About 40 malls in the US and one in Lon­don have the high-tech Santa dis­plays, most of them lo­cated near ma­jor cities that tend to house pricier stores. Tak­ing pho­tos on Santa’s lap costs about $30 and up, around the same as at other malls, but most of the malls say peo­ple can walk through with­out pur­chas­ing any­thing. “It was a half-hour of en­ter­tain­ment that was free,” says Katie Mass, who took her twin daugh­ters through Santa’s Flight Academy, a 3,000-square-foot setup at The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey.

She had gone to the mall to re­turn some dresses, but had to stop when her 2-year olds saw the spec­ta­cle. “They started run­ning,” says the stay-at-home mom from West­field, New Jersey. The girls tapped touch screens, pulled levers and watched as flight suits were vir­tu­ally fit over their bod­ies on a screen. The fi­nal stop was a two-story tall en­closed sleigh that dropped fake snow upon them. One girl made snow an­gels on the floor while her sis­ter danced un­der the col­or­ful lasers. “It was ex­trav­a­gant and well done,” says Mass.

Malls are hop­ing the over-the-top Santa vis­its re­mind peo­ple what brickand-mor­tar stores can of­fer. They’re in­creas­ingly try­ing to of­fer spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ences as they com­pete with on­line ri­vals, says Howard Davi­d­owitz, chair­man of New York-based re­tail con­sult­ing group Davi­d­owitz & As­so­ci­ates. “The par­ents love it, the kids love it and Ama­zon can’t do it,” says Davi­d­owitz.

Santa’s Flight Academy was de­vel­oped by mall op­er­a­tor Taub­man Cen­ters Inc., which spent two years on the idea. Af­ter test­ing it last year at The Mall of San Juan in Puerto Rico, the com­pany rolled it out to 11 other Taub­man malls this year, re­plac­ing a low-tech ice palace that had housed Santa for years. Like other malls with elab­o­rate Santa sets, Taub­man de­clined to say how much it spent on Santa’s Flight Academy.


AL­PHARETTA, Ge­or­gia: In this Sun­day, Nov 20, 2016, photo, mall shop­pers line up to visit the “Ad­ven­ture to Santa,” a DreamWorks DreamPlace ex­pe­ri­ence at North Point Mall.

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