M&Ms will be filling one of the most visible vacancies at the Mall of America: the former two-story American Girl space.
Think of a wall of M&M-filled tubes to mix and match your own variety pack akin to the crayon and marker wall at the Crayola store on the third floor of the Bloomington mall. Then a personalization station where your name or photo could be imprinted on the candies. There also will be a three-story glass elevator up to a third-floor observation deck that is still being designed and stations designed for Instagram shots.
"We're really excited," said Patrick McIntyre, director of global retail at Mars Retail Group and a St. Louis Park resident. "Mall of America is a fantastic opportunity for an M&M experiential store."
The brand on Thursday also announced it was moving its Orlando "experiential" store from Florida Mall to the grounds of Walt Disney World Resort and opening a store in Berlin. The brand already has stores in Times Square in New York City, Las Vegas, London and Shanghai.
Mars Inc., parent company of M&Ms maker Mars Wrigley Confectionery, wanted a flagship store in the Midwest and considered its corporate home of Chicago, McIntyre said. However, the Mall of America is a 12-month destination in the Twin Cities, where Mars was founded. Plus the space is one of MOA's most prominent — open both to the mall and Nickelodeon Universe theme park.
Each store has a different personality, based on where it is located, McIntyre said, and the MOA store will pay homage to both the Midwest and its company roots.
Members of the Mars family were among the early settlers of the Newport/Cottage Grove area. Franklin Mars introduced the Milky Way candy bar in Minneapolis in 1923 before moving the company to Chicago a few years later.
Jill Renslow, MOA senior vice president of corporate development, said the M&Ms store "is definitely the direction that aligns with our strategy."
The idea is to keep evolving the mall's selection with a mix of experiential spaces like the M&Ms, Lego and Crayola stores, along with attractions such as the Crayola Experience and the FlyOver America ride. For adults, there's Lululemon's new larger store with fitness and event space, and Canada Goose with its cold room.
"We want that tactile experience where people can truly interact and engage in the brand," Renslow said, "something they can't do online or at a typical mall."
The retail industry is in a disruptive time, and Mall of America has not been immune to the churn. Several mall stores, including anchor Sears, have closed. Smaaash go-kart and virtual reality entertainment center also closed.
"We have adjusted our business model to be more agile," Renslow said.
MOA had 25 new retailers open last year, Renslow said, partly by adjusting its strategy to allow more online and newer retail outlets an opportunity to open brick-and-mortar stores.
In addition to the Lululemon expansion, Nordstrom did a top-to-bottom renovation.
Besides M&Ms, in the coming year Guy Fieri's Chicken Guy and Duck Donuts are among outlets already committed to opening at MOA.
Catherine Roberts • 612-673-4292