Indianapolis did not get the invite to one of the most exciting worldwide fashion parties that took place on September 8. Either that or Indianapolis just isn’t aware of Vogue’s Fashion’s Night Out (FNO). I’m thinking more the latter. I went to Circle Centre mall to investigate the potential for a successful Fashion’s Night Out party. I have been to FNO events before that had trendy drinks, models displaying the new autumn collections, and of course everyone coming dressed to impress. Could the center of Downtown’s revitalization effort create a unique FNO event like many other urban shopping centers?
I walked into the mall not expecting much, since Eddie Bauer and Bakers were the only two participants, but being familiar with FNO events in other cities, I at least hoped for a little bit of buzz. I heard crickets. The only noise and excitement came from the dancing and music at Johnny Rockets. First, I checked out the few stores I know participate in other cities, but chose not to participate in Indianapolis. I went to stores like The Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, and The loft. Due to company PR rules many were hesitant to talk to me since I would be writing my commentary on the event. Still, I did learn that several stores did not consider participation because they felt the mall wasn’t supportive of the event. The stores that did participate, Bakers and Eddie Baeur, only did so because of their company’s initiative to support FNO nationally.
Many of the Circle Center’s retailers I did speak to are supportive of the idea of FNO…in theory. Almost as many retailers had no idea what FNO was until I explained the event. Some even wondered why their company choose not to participate in an event meant to encourage excitement for shopping. A common discussion point with some of the managers I talked with was the future of Circle Center mall. A manager at a women’s store expressed how much she missed working at The Fashion Mall because of the special fashion focused events hosted by the mall. She referred to the fact that the anchor stores and the mall made special events a priority to drive sales and traffic. “The loss of Nordstrom really hurt the potential of Fashion’s Night Out here [Circle Center Mall]”. I’m not sure if that’s true, given the fact that Nordstrom has not participated in any of the local FNOs to date, nor was the store at the Fashion Mall officially involved. But the question remains: without a high fashion anchor leading the FNO party at Circle Center, could it still happen?
Of the stores participating in FNO, I hit Eddie Bauer first. They have participated in the event for the past three years. So what could be learned from a seasoned veteran of FNO? They sent out an email blast out to their database of customers informing them of the special event. The company also supplied a sign topper for their free standing sign inviting customers into their store and there was a special promotion offered during the hours of the event. While this is what I would consider minimal promotion, I still expected there to be people in the store. There were only 3! 🙁
I then left and visited the second retailer participating in the FNO festivities. Bakers offered a special FNO shoe table highlighting shoe trends. Unlike Eddie Bauer they created a small display inside of the store with signage for guests to identify with the event. Still, as a potential customer walking by their store, I would have no idea they were participating since there was no other signage.
I have to say though, that I was more disappointed with the national chains that participate in FNO in other places, but decided not to bother at Circle Center. For shame!! I am calling out stores like: Express, The Gap, H&M, and Banana Republic. With as big of followings as these stores have and gigantic email lists, you’d think they would want to help themselves and the rest of the mall by making just the minimal of efforts, but I guess not.
By the way, stores are not required to offer special discounts or promotions. The FAQ’s sheet from the FNO website actually discourages this approach. What’s suggested instead is to have special stylists on hand to assist shoppers in current trends or to hold a mini show, displaying newly arrived fall fashions. And while food and drink are not a requirement, every retailer should know nothing beings in people like a few party treats.
So yes, you might say that I am a little disheartened that the mall that was in great part responsible for downtown’s transformation seems to have either stalled, or worse yet, given up on reclaiming it’s glory days…and this with Super Bowl less than six months away! So this is my plea to the fashion community in this city: Please give Circle Center some love!! Yes, Nordstrom is gone, but you can rest assured that the Mall is working hard to find a suitable replacement. Keep your fingers crossed that it’s in time for the Super Bowl!
I truly believe that Fashion’s Night Out could be a great success at Circle Center. I am over accepting the excuse that Indianapolis has different fashion rules and in some way exempt from the rest of fashion civilization! But if FNO 2012 is going to be successful, there will need to be a focused publicity campaign to create awareness and also support for the event from everyone who stands to benefit – the malls, the retailers, the city itself. There has to be a way to tap into the great urban energy that has made places like Mass Ave, and Fountain Square into exciting mini-hubs of culture, shopping and dining. I really hope that I am not the only one who sees the potential of Circle Center.