Most people go to a store to buy what they need, and call it a day. However, there are some retailers who are going the extra mile to capture customers. It may include selling unexpected items or giving their customers an unusual experience.
Costco,for example, employs the first strategy by offering customers a treasure hunt of sorts. While the warehouse store, which is the subject of a CNBC documentary “The Costco Craze,”is known for bulk items like pallets of toilet paper and big boxes of cereal, it also sells things like diamond rings and coffins.
Other retailers have taken it a step further by offering something outside the shopping experience that visitors can enjoy while they are bouncing between aisles or hopping from store to store. Their business strategy is simple — lure as many people into their shops as possible. The result: malls and stores that have become a combination shopping/entertainment destination.
So what are some of the most unusual retail experiences? Click ahead to find out.
By Michelle Fox
Posted 19 April 2012
Attraction: Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Open since 2008, the Dubai Mall is home to 1,200 stores and various entertainment options, but its most dramatic draw is a 2.6 million gallon fish tank. TheDubai Aquarium,which the mall bills as the world’s largest suspended aquarium, is on the ground floor and is home to more than 33,000 aquatic animals — including the largest collection anywhere of Sand Tiger sharks.
Visitors who are brave enough can get up close and personal with the marine life during a shark dive. For those who prefer glass between them and the aquarium’s inhabitants, they can not only gaze into the tank while strolling between shops, they can also traipse through the 157-foot-long tunnel at the bottom.
Located above the aquarium, on the second level, is the Underwater Zoo, which has three ecological zones: rainforest, living ocean and rocky shore. Visitors can catch glimpses of otters, penguins, crocodiles and more. They can also take a glass-bottom boat ride over the zoo’s rock pool.
Over 1.1 million people visited the aquarium and underwater zoo in 2011.
Attraction: Nickelodeon Universe
Location: Bloomington, Minn.
When you think megamall, you generally think of the Mall of Americain Minnesota. The 4.2-million-square-foot space, which could fit seven baseball stadiums, sees 40 million visitors a year. One in four are tourists.
One of the main attractions, in addition to the 520 shops, is Nickelodeon Universe. The amusement park, which touts itself as the nation’s largest indoor family theme park, is located on 7 acres in the center of the mall. Among the 27 attractions are thrill rides like the Avatar Airbender and Brain Surge, and family rides like Log Chute and Crazy Cars. There’s also an adventure course that allows guests to climb 56 feet above Nickelodeon Universe.
Mall guests looking to take a different kind of plunge can visit the Chapel of Love wedding chapel. So far, more than 5,000 weddings have been performed at the site.
Attraction: wildlife mounts, aquariums
Location: 58 locations in North America
This outdoor retailer sells things like fishing gear, camping equipment and clothing. However, it also has an added bonus for nature enthusiasts: Wildlife mounts are displayed throughout each store. The museum-quality mounts of animals like bears, moose and deer can be seen in replicas of their natural settings. Visitors are also treated to fish-filled aquariums and in some cases, a separate aquarium with live alligators. The retailer says for many, it’s like a trip to a natural history museum.
“People take vacations to travel to our stores,” said spokesman Larry Whiteley. “They have weddings in them. Yellow school buses bring kids there for educational experiences.”
The wildlife on display depends on the store. Each of the 58 stores in North America is designed to reflect its location. The stores also offer family summer camps, outdoor skills workshops, and fishing and hunting classics.
Attraction: fashion shows
Location: Las Vegas
Most stores have mannequins to model clothing, but this Las Vegas mall takes things a step further — it hosts live fashion shows. Three days a week, seven times a day, models strut their stuff down an 80-foot retractable runway in the mall’s Great Hall. Designers like Zac Posen, Betsey Johnson, Alexander McQueen and Roberto Cavalli have already staged shows at Fashion Show.
The shopping center, which says it attracts more than 13 million shoppers a year, anticipates holding more than 1,000 fashion shows this year.
Attraction: Ferris wheel
Location: New York
Walk into the Toys “R” Us in New York’s Time Square, and you’ll not only see aisles and aisles of toys — you’ll also see a 60-foot Ferris wheel. Located in the front of the 110,000-square-foot store, the Ferris wheel has 14 individually themed cars inspired by toys and characters, such as Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, Barbie Doll Car and Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine. A portion of the ride’s $5 ticket goes to the Toys “R” Us Children’s Fund, which supports children’s charities in the U.S.
If kids would rather keep both feet on the ground, they can go to the store’s “R” Cade, which has more than 30 games.
Attraction: Ice Skate USA
For those looking for an invigorating break from shopping, strapping on a pair of ice skates may do the trick. Shoppers who visit Houston’s Memorial City Mall can do just that. The mall, which is home to five department stores and 150 specialty retailers, also has an NHL size ice skating rink.
Open 364 days a year, the rink not only allows shoppers to blow off some steam during their shopping spree, it also hosts adult and youth hockey leagues and a learn-to-skate program. For those who don’t skate, the lounge area outside the rink has the added bonus of Wi-Fi, so parents can chill out and hop online while their kids expel some energy.
Attractions: Lego Jungle Expedition, Lego workshops
Location: Schaumburg, Ill.
There are more than 3 million Lego bricks and nine attractions at the Legoland Discovery Center Chicago, located just 30 minutes from downtown in suburban Schaumburg. Not only can you buy all the Lego sets your child’s heart desires, your kids can romp through a Lego Jungle Expedition and a replica of Chicago. They can also build their own Lego models with “Lego experts” in a model building workshop, play in the Lego City Construction Site Play Zone, and go on the Technicycle Ride — a spinning machine that flies into the air.
Attraction: Ski Dubai
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
If combining shopping and skiing is your idea of a perfect way to spend a day, the Mall of Emirates in Dubai has just what you’re looking for. That’s right — this mall has a ski resort within its walls.
Ski Dubai, which is over 242,000 square feet, says it is “covered in real snow all year round.” It has five ski runs that vary in difficulty, a snowboard park and a tubing hill. Don’t have any ski clothes or equipment? Don’t worry, Ski Dubai offers those as well. It also has a ski school for those who want to learn to ski, or polish up on their skills. All in a city where the average daily high temperaturefrom June through September is at least 100 degrees.
Attraction: Café and Bar
Location: New York
If you want to indulge your sweet tooth, this Willy Wonka-inspired candy shop in New York has all sorts of tempting treats. The brainchild of Dylan Lauren, daughter of fashion designer Ralph Lauren, Dylan's Candy Bar is home to 7,000 candies from around the globe.
When you are done stuffing your shopping bag with enough sweets to quench your cravings, you can head up to the store’s bar and café. However, these aren’t your typical eating and drinking establishments. For instance, you can order a regular pizza or a dessert pie, like a s’mores pizza, which comes with mini marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate chips and marshmallow topping.
If a sandwich is more your style, you can try a Nutty Jammy Fluffy (pictured left) — peanut butter, jelly, marshmallow cream and one topping on bread.
The drinks also don’t disappoint. The bar list includes such concoctions as Pop Rocks Explosion, Root Beer Floatini and Strawberry Nerds Mojito.
Attraction: World Waterpark
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Shopping can be exhausting, so why not take a refreshing dip in the pool when you’re done? Shoppers have that option at Canada’s West Edmonton Mall — home to the 5-acre World Waterpark.
The park, which can be viewed from the two levels of the 5.3-million-square-foot mall, has a 2.7-million-gallon wave pool, which generates waves about 5 feet high. There are also 17 water slides and attractions, like the 600-foot-long “Howler,” and the 85-foot-high “Twister” and “Cyclone.”
For a more relaxing experience, visitors can enjoy one of the three hot tubs, or just lounge by the pool. Open 365 days a year, the park draws an estimated 600,000 visitors annually.
Costco's 64 million members pay for the privilege to buy. CNBC takes you inside a cultural icon where bargains add up to billions in revenue.
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