Q&A: American Dream's Don Ghermezian on the mall as a medium

Al Urbanski
Don Ghermezian
Don Ghermezian

Don Ghermezian is the CEO of Triple Five Group and its American Dream retail and entertainment mega-center in New Jersey's Meadowlands. 

American Dream runs a host of more than 20 monthly activations. We caught up with Ghermezian to learn more about American Dream's events strategy and plans going forward.

American Dream has activations that few centers could host. Live Nation! musical events, home ice for the Metropolitan Riveters hockey team, drawing vast crowds for appearances of celebrities like MrBeast. What makes this possible?
American Dream is designed with multiple spaces to accommodate events and large crowds. Our common area courts are multi-level and by design were created with MrBeast-type events in mind. We also have a partnership with iHeart Radio where we invite talent to host meet-and-greets and record podcasts.

Our NHL-regulation rink has been converted to a concert venue, convention space, soccer field, graduation hall, and most recently an event space for the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola. Our parks are designed for large-scale concerts. Our newest event space, known as Dream Live, is about to launch and will be dedicated to hosting traveling exhibits and shows.

Do you have a written strategy for the pursuit of such special attractions?
We are hitting more than 20 events monthly. Our goal is to have multiple events on a daily basis. We have a dedicated events department with subdivision—each one dedicated to a specific demographic. We have a team dedicated to celebrity events and special interest events such as fashion, sports, food, art, music, and charity. We have teacher appreciation events, military events, hockey tournaments, monthly local hero awards program, book signings, merch drops, project graduations, large scale concerts, conventions, talent shows--practically anything you can imagine.

Do you have any other such special events in play?
Our leasing, marketing, events, and sponsorship teams along with all of our staff members--whom we call Dream Makers--are imbued with the motto that American Dream is limitless and open to all creative ideas. My teams are empowered to dream big and to pursue new and unique concepts. If the concept doesn’t exist, we will create it. For this reason, American Dream has one-of-a-kind and multiple first-to-market concepts.

American Dream is definitely not a traditional mall. I think of it more as an “All.”

We know from previous discussions with you that all of these activities are predicated on driving traffic to your tenants. How do you get them involved?
Attractions are strategically placed at American Dream so that our guests walk past our retailers upon entering and exiting. In addition, our attractions drive new and off-peak traffic, including tourists, who stay longer and have higher spends. We love to get all our retailers involved—whether it’s Saks activating in The Garden with beauty demos or giveaways from our Wheel of Win throughout the holidays. We offer our tenants the opportunity to incentivize and reward their top customers with tickets to our attractions, private dinners, and so much more. American Dream is able to take retailers beyond their four walls and into the fabric of the property.

Is that what led Hermès and Zara to lease such expansive spaces?
Executives at Hermès are true visionaries and understood the vision of American Dream from the very beginning. They are leaders in the luxury fashion space and together we are expanding the luxury retail experience. We partnered with Hermès on creating an upscale holiday market in The Avenue for VIP customers. Since initially opening, Yves Saint Laurent has doubled its space to create a two-level flagship similar to Hermès. And we recently announced a two-level Gucci flagship. Tenants understand the need to evolve and create new experiences for customers.

Triple Five has a world-famous property called Mall of America. If you could come up with a proper appellation for American Dream, what would it—in one word—be?
You’re right. It’s definitely not a traditional mall.  I think of it more as an “All” and as a “Dream.”  American Dream is a one-of-a-kind destination that cannot be found anywhere else. We are just at the beginning of the American Dream’s full experience. Stay tuned for some major entertainment and expansion announcements.

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