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Lakeshore ready for holiday shopping season

Mall revamp may bring more foot traffic to stores

POSTED: November 23, 2013 11:58 p.m.

Jenn Rogers, a merchandising specialist for Books-A-Million, organizes the kids' seasonal table Nov. 16 at the Lakeshore Mall store.

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The halls of Lakeshore Mall are already decked for the upcoming holiday season, spruced up with lights and garland. Santa Claus has been installed to his throne of honor, and preparation for the onslaught of shoppers this upcoming Friday — the infamous Black Friday — are well under way.

It’s the culmination of a year that’s seen much change at the local mall, renovations that will hopefully lead to revitalization.

“We are expecting to be busy this holiday season,” said Kirsten Boettcher, marketing manager for the mall. “Adding a retail giant like Dick’s Sporting Goods ... is going to attract more traffic.”

The sporting goods store, which opened in October, is the crown jewel of several smaller efforts. The business joins together anchor stores JCPenney and Sears, while several of the smaller stores in the mall have all been moved to one particular area, near the main entrance.

Extra landscaping has spruced up the curb side appeal of the area, and outside renovations have made the building more accessible for shoppers with physical disabilities.

The renovation of Lakeshore Mall was a priority in Gainesville’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan, noting “repositioning Lakeshore Mall as a regional destination could benefit the city’s economic development program as well as raise its profile.”

Local shoppers agree, and say that the changes so far have done just that.

The changes have made shoppers curious to see what’s new at the mall, viewing it as a nearby resource and convenient option rather than driving further away for gifts.

“I shop there a lot,” said Marie Taubel of Gillsville. “It’s close to where I work so I shop there at lunch a lot.

“I like to see it be improved because I really enjoy the mall close by,” she added.

Taubel said she doesn’t have much shopping to do this holiday season, but Carolyn Roberts does.

“I really do like the improvements the mall has made,” Roberts said. She plans to shop in both downtown Gainesville as well as Lakeshore Mall for her holiday gifts. “I think bringing the new Dick’s Sporting Goods here added something, because my son, my son-in-law and my husband all use sporting things.”

Roberts, along with her friend Judy Foster, also said they like changes made in the Belk department store.

There are a few changes they are not fans of, including the changes made to the food court. Deli Max is now open by the main entrance, and Great American Cookies is also in that same area. Roberts said she wishes they would bring back more dining options inside the mall.

The other downside mentioned was the gaps between buildings, notably the one between Dick’s Sporting Goods and JCPenney. JCPenney officials have not announced whether they plan to renovate their current building, or demolish and build a new one; Boettcher calls the open space between the two stores a “new leasing opportunity” for the mall, though no concrete deals are in place.

Boettcher said she expects a decent crowd will be at the mall on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when many retailers open early and slash prices to lure holiday shoppers. The mall itself will open at midnight this year, while the main anchor stores — Belk, JCPenney, Sears and Dick’s Sporting Goods — will actually open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

“Last year, Sears opened at 10 p.m. and it was very busy in there,” Boettcher said. “Black Friday shopping is one of those family traditions, and I believe the stores opening on Thanksgiving Day might be a new trend.”

To bring people into the mall at midnight, Boettcher will be there to hand out 150 gift cards to the first people at the information booth, ranging from $5 to $500.

Beyond Black Friday, however, local shoppers are still curious to see what more the mall can offer.

“The better they can make the mall, then the more people that are going to come into it and (make it) not be so boring,” said Shanna Wilson, who plans to spend part of her Black Friday shopping at Lakeshore. “I see they’re also putting some kind of kid’s zone there and a new little hair salon, so there are more things that I’m excited about starting up.”

“I live 20 minutes from Gainesville ... so it’ll be nice to have more new stores here, closer,” she added. “I’m definitely excited about the mall this year.”


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