When someone coined the term “retail therapy”, they probably didn’t have this kind of lunacy in mind.
Forget cut-price sales and leafy, ambient interiors; the owners of the world’s most expansive malls are going above and beyond to keep cashed-up customers coming back.
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From the extravagant to the downright mindboggling, hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into bizarre ploys to lure clientele.
Here are some of the most unique.
Fremont St Experience – Las Vegas
Positioned high above the Fremont St shopping precinct and neatly beneath the world’s largest arching LED sign, the Slotzilla Zip Line gives up to four customers at a time the chance to scream their way along two zip lines, the highest positioned 10 stories above the ground. Participants sail above shops at more than 60km/h over 500m to arrive at a platform at the Golden Gate, one of the city’s most historic venues. Thrill seekers admit the only downside to this attraction is the long queues at almost any time of the year. When the attraction opened in 2014, spokesman Thomas Bruny said the $12 million ride, which took more than a year to construct, was one of a kind. “(It’s) unique because nowhere are you flying over people and under the largest video canopy in the world,” he said.
Mall of the Emirates, Dubai
It is perhaps bizarrely fitting that a shopping mall in one of the world’s hottest destinations features one of the coldest attractions. Built in 2005, Ski Dubai offers thrill seekers an 85m high mountain with five individual runs for skiers and snowboarders. There are sled runs for kids, and even a penguin enclosure. It is widely considered one of Dubai’s top 10 engineering feats and is among it’s top attractions.
West Edmonton Mall, Canada
The management of the largest shopping mall in North America certainly didn’t cut any corners when it came to making design concepts a reality. Known as the Disneyland of shopping centres, West Edmonton Mall comes complete with an ice skating rink and an amusement and water park. It even has a zoo. The centre, which employs more than 24,000 staff, also boasts a sea lion enclosure. The attraction has angered animal rights groups but continues to appeal to the hundreds of thousands of visitors a year who pay to play with the mammals. The centre also has the world’s largest indoor wave pool.
Playground Pier, Atlantic City
Never mind the fact that the beach is literally on the other side of the windows – the designers behind this mall decided to bring the sandy shores of the coastal city indoors. Built over a 270m long pier, high end shops overlook the sprawling main beach, but most shoppers will be in their element on the third floor. Deck chairs, sand and an expansive window allows visitors to have a beach experience with a little protection from the elements.
Printemps Shopping Centre, Shanghai
Shoppers eager to get from the top floor to the bottom of this expansive Chinese shopping centre need only throw themselves down a five-storey stainless steel slide. Located in Shanghai’s exclusive Pudong District, a drop in sales is thought to be behind the concept, which opened in 2016 and sends the brave hurtling to the ground floor in just 16 seconds. The less adventurous can, of course, opt for more traditional methods to get to their favourite stores.
Mall of America, Minnesota
Located in the Mall of America, the largest shopping centre in the USA, “Fly Over America” ’ is touted as a “totally immersive” theatre experience where customers – or passengers – are suspended from special seats as aerial views of some of the country’s most spectacular natural wonders are projected onto a spherical screen. Creators used a special camera mount on a helicopter to capture the footage, which is complemented with gusts of wind, mist and even the distinct smells of each region. It costs $22 (AUD) and is just one of the scores of attractions at the mall. Investors recently spent $12 million to open a 40,000 square foot arcade hall that includes a multi-level go-kart track. It also has a fully operational fun park, Nickelodeon Universe, with 27 rides.
The Villagio Mall, Doha
Only in Qatar could shoppers be convinced they are in Italy. The Villagio Mall was designed to look just like a quaint town in the Italian hills. There is a network of canals and a Venezian-inspired gondola ride, as well as plenty of shops, of course. But there is also an Olympic-sized skating rink, a go-kart track and a rollercoaster.