“The mall has survived every threat. Occupancy might be weaker, sales might be down, but in the end shopping malls are the mainstays of the community. Who doesn't like to go to the mall?” Paul Osborne, CEO of US real estate investor Cohen & Steers, says of the future of shopping malls. His opinion, although mainly pertaining to the US, seems to be backed up by what the Bucharest market has seen recently. No more than a week ago, amidst a period of financial difficulties, the recently opened AFI Palace Cotroceni shopping mall saw 380,000 visitors in its first four days from opening. True, not all visitors buy something, but attracting people to their shopping centers seems to be one of the main focuses of mall owners these days, since the competition on the Bucharest shopping scene has increased. The opening of a new shopping center, provided that it brings new or sought after brands to a more easily reachable location, impacts other shopping centers in the vicinity, as well as others throughout the city. So the situation is not rosy for everybody. Among the ways an existing shopping center can survive competition and falling sales is to adapt its marketing campaigns, and some of the existing ones on the Bucharest market have done so. Equest Balkan Property, the owner of Vitantis Shopping Center, has put aside EUR 500,000 for its marketing activities next year, Vlad Dragoescu, manager of Equest, tells Business Review. For the last three months of this year, the firm has been running a promotional campaign with prizes totaling EUR 628,000, many of which take the form of vouchers for stores in the shopping center. Partnerships between shopping center owners and retailers are frequently used during periods of low consumption. Vitantis, located south east of Bucharest, draws on a pool of 700,000 people living within a 30-minute radius of the shopping center. The aim of the marketing campaign is to boost traffic in the center by 35 percent to11,000 people a day during the week and 16,000 each on Saturday and Sunday. The owners also expect an increase of 30 percent in the average spend for retailers. Organizing events allows Vitantis to up visitor numbers over the weekend, from 12,000 people a day, to around 16,000. Developer Anchor Grup must see that its two shopping centers in Bucharest, Bucuresti Mall and Plaza Romania, celebrating ten and five years on the market respectively, do well in the face of new competition and amid declining retail sales. “Our strategy has always been about increasing our customers' loyalty. […] Events are an important part of our strategy,” Radu Tanasescu, chief operating officer of Anchor Grup, tells BR. Traffic in a shopping center is not only connected to marketing campaigns, but also to the quality of the brand itself, he goes on. “In our case, customers return not only because of events and special promotions, but because both malls have a good mix of brands, adapted each year to the demand of the market,” Tanasescu says. After opening a new Zara store in Bucuresti Mall earlier this year and a Gap unit in Plaza Romania, Anchor is planning five new arrivals in November at Plaza Romania: Jack and Jones, Sasch, Vero Moda, Sam 013 and Ruby Tuesday. The developer hopes to boost traffic by 10 percent through each campaign, but “traffic increases even more due to the environment, brands and services,” Tanasescu concludes. Anchor Grup has a series of events planned for this month, after having organized several others in October as well. Shopping malls have started to host other types of events apart from concerts. For example, Liberty Center, which was opened in spring this year, will be hosting an all-night advertising event called Noaptea Devoratorilor de Publicitate in November and December. For AFI Palace Cotroceni, the events side is even more of a part of the business, as the shopping mall has created a special space dedicated to promotions and events, called Smart Market Advertise, which covers 750 sqm within the mall. Baneasa Shopping City too is organizing events and special promotions to keep its customers coming. One example also involves a partnership with a retailer, which has stores elsewhere in the city too. Mango, a brand in the portfolio of Solmar group, offered a 20 percent discount and the gift of an evening shopping spree in its store in Baneasa.