Store managers at Columbia Mall are generally satisfied with a policy that prohibits unsupervised youths from hanging out at the mall Friday and Saturday nights. Some say the parental guidance program is good for business, citing a family-friendly atmosphere and steady or increasing sales.
The policy, which went into effect Feb. 2, requires youths younger than 17 years old to be with an adult who is 21 or older if they’re at the mall after 4 p.m. on those days.
“Our weekend nights business has picked up significantly,” said Amanda Gamblin, assistant manager at Limited Too, a clothing store for young girls. “Business used to be more unpredictable, and we never knew if we were going to make our ‘last year sales’ marks.”
Now with the policy, if by 6 p.m. the store has not reached the mark, store managers know it will make the mark by the end of the day on weekend nights, she said.
Sales have increased, in part, because the atmosphere is calmer and families are taking advantage of it, Gamblin said. The policy has decreased stealing and fighting among groups of girls, she said.
“Young girls between 12 and 17 that hung out in the mall didn’t have anywhere to be social and were fighting at the mall before the policy,” Gamblin said. “We were considering hiring a guard. Instead of hiring a guard our sales have increased since the policy.”
Fights between groups of kids were common before the program was implemented, said Stephanie Powell, store manager at the clothing store Hollister.
“The policy makes shopping a more comfortable, family experience,” she said.
Powell said she has received complaints from a few parents who were upset that their kids could not shop there during the curfew hours without adult supervision. “I had to tell them that it was a mall policy, not our store policy,” she said.
But the policy’s effect on sales is difficult for some stores to quantify.
“I haven’t noticed a huge difference, but sales have not been affected negatively,” Powell said. “Fridays may be a little slower, but Saturdays are the same — very busy.”
Since the policy was implemented, code of conduct violations have decreased, said Kate Essing, Columbia Mall general manager. Violations were down by 95 percent in February and March of this year compared with the same time last year, she said. Violations of the code include any activity that threatens or disturbs anyone in the mall or mall property.
Essing said the policy has led to an increase in visitors and sales for stores. That increase can be seen in the number of stroller rentals and carousel rides. Stroller rentals were up 16 percent in March with carousel rides up 10 percent during the same month, Essing said.
For John Buhr, assistant general manager at Panera Bread, the policy’s impact can be seen in the restaurant. More families with groups of kids are eating there, Buhr said. “The hallway seating used to have teenagers that only bought soda and bagels, but now there is more space and the same amount of customers,” he said.
Sales have increased roughly 5 percent since last year, Buhr said. “That could be the policy or just the growth of business,” he said.
Although Panera Bread didn’t have frequent problems with youths before the policy, the “kids could get out of hand and be a distraction to other customers and employees,” Buhr said.
The mall plans to attract more families with live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, Essing said.
The programs, called Neighborhood Nights, will begin in May. Thirty groups have been contacted about helping plan the events, Essing said.
Other malls also have teen curfews in place. The St. Louis Mills implemented its policy in November, Jefferson City’s Capital Mall started its curfew in February, and the St. Louis Galleria plans to start a curfew Friday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.