In recent decades, malls have become woven into the very fabric of American identity – an integral component of community building across the country, as well as, even more simply, a sanctuary for Americans; a place to relax, shop, discover new things and meet friends.
So, given that malls exist so fundamentally for people, it’s no surprise that according to Mall of AmericaJill Renslow, Executive Vice President of Business Development and Marketing, who has been with the company since she was a college intern 25 years ago, the secret sauce that has been responsible for its immense success is actually the people who work behind the scenes.
“It’s all about people,” says Jill CEO magazine. “You need to focus especially on your internal staff. Appreciate them. Treat them well. Take them for the ride. Bring them to the table and listen to their voices.
Although it was set up to help these businesses survive during this time, we have since continued the program. We now have 38 different brands in the space.
Mall of America first opened its doors to the Minnesota public in 1992, with 10,000 employees enthusiastically welcoming customers to the 330 on-site stores. Now, three decades later, in addition to its specialty stores, Mall of America hosts more than 400 events each year, from concerts and celebrity appearances to fashion shows.
It has become a bustling entertainment center and a destination in itself, with more than 40 million people from around the world visiting each year before the COVID-19 pandemic and, in turn, generating nearly US$2 billion.
Lead with Purpose
But, as Jill explains, what they do at the Mall of America isn’t just about making money, it’s about “leading with purpose.” On average, says Jill, US$12,000 a day is raised for Mall of America’s community and charity partners.
A cornerstone of the Minnesota community, the organization works incredibly hard to give back and support those who need it most. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mall of America used its facilities to set up Minnesota’s largest vaccination site.
In addition to partnering with nonprofits, Mall of America even donated warehouse space to the charity Every Meal, which used the space to distribute much-needed food to families. disadvantaged during the pandemic. Mall of America has also created a free retail space called Community Commons for retailers whose stores were damaged during the spring 2020 civil unrest.
“While it was set up to help these businesses survive during this time, we have since continued the program. We now have 38 different brands in the space,” she says.
Sustainability at heart
Sustainability is another hugely important element at the heart of everything at the Mall of America. And when it comes to knowing precisely how the company is tackling its carbon footprint, the list goes on, to say the least.
“We were green before green was cool,” Jill laughs. “From the beginning, our organization has been at the forefront of developing and constructing a sustainable building. We have over eight acres of skylights in the building for solar power. We don’t have central heating – everything is heated by body heat and skylights.
From the beginning, our organization has been at the forefront of developing and constructing a sustainable building.
“We have over 30,000 live plants and 300 live trees in the mall to provide natural oxygen. We do not use pesticides in our theme park. We have all LED lighting in our parking ramps, the largest parking garage lighting conversion in the nation. We have a large recycling center, where we recycle the majority of our waste. We work with local pig farmers to donate all of our food waste to them. »
And although an internal committee dedicated to sustainability deliberates on these solutions and thinks about the most innovative ways to combat climate problems, Jill approaches this subject with a sharing attitude.
“I think it’s something industries can learn from each other, not something that’s a trade secret,” she says. “It’s like, ‘What are you doing? How can we do better? How can we collectively make a difference to our environment?
A common vision
Dependence on high-quality suppliers is essential to an operation as huge as Mall of America, the key to which, according to Jill, is trust. “We’ve had partners who have worked with us since day one, and they’re still working with us today, because we planted that initial vision early on,” she says.
As a result, Jill believes that collaborating with like-minded brands only serves to improve the experience and increase the offerings for customers. “It’s a long-term investment on both sides. We want to make sure we have meaningful partnerships that add value to our customers.
“When you have the mindset where you want to collectively work towards a common vision, everyone wins.”
When you have the mentality of wanting to work collectively towards a common vision, everyone wins.
Since there’s no doubt that from here Mall of America will only go from strength to strength, Jill generously offers sage advice to those looking to replicate the company’s success.
“Be curious and courageous, and don’t be afraid to take risks,” she enthuses. “It’s going to push you and your team to new limits to really understand what you’re capable of and what you can bring to the industry and your fans.
“It creates a level of curiosity in your fans where they want to keep coming back because they know there’s going to be something new around the corner. We’ve always kept our brand fresh, we’re never afraid to take risks. We like to try new things and test and fail quickly so we can learn and move forward.