For the past 12 months, international shoppers have infused U.S. mall and outlet centers with life-sustaining cash. In the first half of this year, the United States saw 23.9 million international visitors, an 11 percent increase over last year. From January through June, those visitors spent $69.9 billion, an increase of 23 percent over the first six months in 2007. To further capitalize on that trend, shopping center owners and managers are bolstering their marketing efforts with new and or enhanced multi-language marketing efforts.

French, German, Mandarin, Portuguese and Spanish are among the foreign language marketing campaigns landlords have created to serve multinational audiences and immigrant shoppers.

Chelsea Premium Outlets, a division of Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, for example, has an automated public address system at some of its centers on a prerecorded loop that greets shoppers in several languages. “In some cases, we might be the first place the visitor stops in after leaving the airport,” says Michele Rothstein, senior vice president of marketing with Chelsea. “It acknowledges that we are a destination for people from other countries.”

Chelsea doesn't stop at their greeting. Group tours at some of its 38 U.S. Premium Outlets are available in Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese, in addition to English. The language varies by the center based on which part of the world the centers' international shoppers are more likely to hail from. It also provides visitors with international size conversion charts on its Web site, to make it easier for tourists to find clothes in the right size.

Although Chelsea's campaign primarily targets international shoppers, some mall operators are using multi-language marketing to lure U.S. consumers who are bilingual. Chattanooga, Tenn.-based CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., created a Spanish-language version of its “Treat Yourself” marketing campaign.

The $500,000 creative broadcast and print campaign, overseen by KMT Creative Group in Chattanooga, was developed separately in Spanish, to avoid any verbal or cultural nuances getting lost or misconstrued in a direct translation of its newspaper, direct mail and radio advertisements from English to Spanish.

“We had a very positive response all the way down the line,” says Missy Thompson, president and creative director with KMT Creative Group. Thompson says she does not know how much the Spanish-language advertisements, which were launched in January, have affected CBL's sales figures. The Spanish-language campaign, concentrated in heavily Spanish-speaking markets and at shopping centers along the Mexican border, is scheduled to run until 2010.

However, at Macerich Co., bilingual marketing campaigns aren't anything new. Since 2004, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based mall owner and operator has used bilingual marketing and advertising campaigns and signage at Desert Sky Mall in Phoenix. More than 70 percent of the shoppers at the 893,457-square-foot property are of Hispanic descent. All of the signage inside Desert Sky is in both Spanish and English. It also has two versions of the mall's Web site — one for each language. Also, to enhance the shoppers' experience, Macerich says it encourages its retail tenants to hire bilingual sales associates.

The bilingual marketing costs a little extra because of the expense associated with the use of qualified Spanish translators, according to Zeke Valenzuela, Desert Sky's general manager, but it's worth it.

“The mall is located in an area heavily populated by Latinos, so it made sense for us to go bilingual,” says Stephanie Goodin, marketing manager at the property. “A lot of our national chain tenants are actually doing bilingual signage themselves.”

Among those retailers who have incorporated bilingual campaigns into their marketing efforts are the Children's Place, Fred Meyer Jewelers and Mervyns.

Turn Back the Clock

Taubman Centers hosted a back-to-school in-mall and online campaign so students could see what they may have looked like back when their parents were in school. The campaign “Yearbook Yourself” allowed visitors to upload their photographs and morph their faces onto yearbook photos dating back to the 1950s. Users could see themselves with hair and attire of the times. A “homeroom” page also allowed visitors to save their favorite yearbook photo and invite friends to post their pictures as well. During both the in-center and online visits, the promotion supported 20 of Taubman's centers across the United States.

Signs of the Times

Woodforest National Bank, headquartered in Houston, Texas, has rolled out digital signage by Omnivex Corp. at its branches, including at more than 500 Wal-Mart stores. At each location there are between two and seven LCD screens with motion graphics touting the latest Woodforest bank products and services, including checking accounts, CDs and home loans. The digital visual communication system helps draw Wal-Mart shoppers' attention to the in-store banks. From a single location, Woodforest is able to change messages at all its branches simultaneously to react to news or publicize company events.

Think Pink

Tanger Outlet Centers, in the campaign against breast cancer, is offering its customers a discount. Through October 19, shoppers at Tanger Outlet Centers can purchase a 25% OFF Pink Card. For a $1 donation, Tanger shoppers will receive a Pink Card entitling them to 25 percent discounts at participating outlet stores in Tanger centers. Tanger's campaign raises funds for ongoing research to end breast cancer, supports educational programs and tries to improve the quality of life for breast cancer patients and their families. The cards are available at all Tanger Shopper Services locations and online. In addition, at its U.S. properties, Tanger will raise money through other on-site and community activities including Relays for Life, Breast Cancer Walks and fashion shows. Tanger will donate money raised to the American Cancer Society and more than a dozen other organizations.

School Ties

Glimcher Realty Trust's Portland, Ore.-based mall, Lloyd Center, will give $10,000 to area schools as part of the Education for Learning partnership between businesses and local Portland school districts. Through the end of October, every dollar that customers spend can be turned into points for the school of their choice. In addition, Mondays and Tuesdays are “Double-Point Days” during which receipts earn double points for schools. Shoppers can redeem points at the Customer Service Center at the mall. A tally board at the mall will be updated weekly to reflect the running totals for each school. At the end of the 10-week program, the top 10 schools will be awarded cash prizes ranging from $150 to $4,000. The winning schools will be notified by Friday, November 7.