Mall operator Simon unveiled Launchpad by Simon, described as a retail platform for showcasing new products and trends, at six of its shopping malls around the U.S. on Black Friday, according to a Simon press release.
Sourcing merchandise for the platform was a global effort, as Simon drew products and innovation inspiration from wholesalers while attending the CES Show, ASD Show, Canton Fair and Hong Kong Gift and Toy Show, the company said.
The Launchpad by Simon locations will also each feature two technology installations — the 720 Degree Experience, a virtual reality experience "with a 720 camera creating HD images and video to post on social media or view via VR goggles," and Youth Tech, featuring a smartphone-enabled gaming console, a robotic dog able to respond to verbal commands and other trendy tech.
Launchpad by Simon looks like an attempt to create new energy in shopping malls around tech-infused experiences for shoppers. In some ways, it's similar to what b8ta has been doing with some retailers, and the store-within-a-store concepts that have been leveraged by Best Buy and others to build experiences into the traditional store environment. Providing fun tech experiences, and showing off new concepts that may not be in most stores, could help Simon create excitement around malls and give shoppers something they haven't seen before.
The Launchpad locations also will serve as venues to gauge demand for these new products. Joseph Gerardi, Vice President of specialty leasing for Simon, said in a statement, "Items that sell extremely well will quickly migrate to another location outside of Launchpad. If the product does not sell to a satisfactory level during the trial period, we will immediately return it and test the next product on our list."
This effort also appears to be the latest way in which Simon is trying to rethink shopping malls. Instead of fearing change in the mall landscape, Simon is embracing it, even saying the demise of traditional mall anchor stores like Sears might be a sign that malls don't need department stores.
It's an interesting attitude to have as shopping malls in general have seen fast-rising vacancy rates, and the Launchpad hints that Simon plans on making them venues for showcasing new products and tech concepts in the hopes of bringing out curious people — along with their wallets.