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Futuristic 'bazaar' has its sight on millennials

Bartering with a sales associate to get the best possible price. Choosing your favorite color combination to design your own pair of flip flops. Virtually trying on jewelry via a high-tech hologram.

In true Las Vegas style, the Grand Bazaar Shops—which had their soft opening on Thursday—bring a new level of innovation and interactivity to the physical store experience.

An aerial view of the Grand Bazaar Shops
Source: Grand Bazaar Shops

But these whiz-bang elements aren't all for show. Juno Property Group, the developer behind the two-acre outdoor bazaar, created the property with one specific customer in mind. By fusing technology and unique store experiences, it's going after device-driven millennial shoppers, who have about $200 billion in direct purchasing power, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"[Millennials are] what retailers are really redefining themselves for," said Larry Siegel, chairman of Juno Property Group. "If you're not really engaging the consumer in a very special way then I think at the end of the day it's tough sledding."

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Each of the property's 120 tenants will bring its own vision of interactivity to the shopping center. Visitors at the Swarovski store, for example, have the chance to barter over the price of crystal designs originally marked for either hundreds or thousands of dollars. At the Disney store, shoppers can watch live artists recreate scenes from "Frozen" and other films.

Meanwhile, Brazilian flip flop company Havaianas lets consumers design their own sandals, and jewelry maker Alex and Ani simplifies the try-on process through virtual reality.

Each brand's spin on interactivity is designed to bring excitement back to bricks-and-mortar retail, which has "a lot of sameness when you go from venue to venue," Siegel said. The physical store has also suffered as more shoppers turn to the web, where they can pick out and purchase items at the click of a button.

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These trends continue to put a dent in foot traffic across the U.S. According to the latest Citi report, February traffic month-to-date was down nearly 6 percent. That follows a decline of nearly 2 percent in January.

"You're competing with convenience," Siegel said. "That's not necessarily an easy thing to do."

Big shifts seen in retail

The Grand Bazaar Shops sit on what was previously a pedestrian walkway on the Las Vegas Strip, adjacent to the famous Bellagio fountains. The stores are nearly 80 percent leased, and more than 70 shops have already opened. Over the next few weeks, that number should increase to about 90 open stores, Siegel said.

Shoppers won't need to leave the property to experience Las Vegas' over-the-top entertainment. Every day at midnight, the site will hold a three-minute light and sound show, to bring "New Year's Eve-style excitement to the strip every night of the year," Swarovski said. It includes the use of more than 1,800 points of LED light being emitted from a 14-foot-wide Swarovski starburst, complete with more than 900 custom-cut crystals.

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Although Siegel declined to offer annual sales projections for the property, he predicted it would be among the highest sales per square foot projects anywhere. Helping boost that metric is the fact that its average store size is smaller than at an average shopping center. It also doesn't hurt that Las Vegas attracted more than 41 million visitors last year—a new record, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

According to the tourism bureau, visitors spent an average $140.90 on shopping in 2013, the last year that data is available.

"Every three or four days you get a brand new customer," Siegel said.