roads lead to Exit 76
Indiana mall strives
to be the finest in the Midwest
Courtesy of the Antique Trader
EDINBURGH, Ind. (October 2005) A man dressed in blue jeans
and a red vest slows as he walks down the aisle toward a customer. Are
you doing all right, sir? he asks. Let us know if we can
help you with anything.
by Don Johnson
co-owner Albert Skaggs
stands outside Exit 76 Antiques Mall
in Edinburgh, Ind., near Columbus.
The facility houses 72,000 sq. ft.
of antiques and collectibles.
He is part of a team of employees, all wearing red vests,
who roam Exit 76 Antiques Mall in Edinburgh, Ind. While some antiques
malls have struggled in recent years, Exit 76 continues to thrive with
strong sales and full occupancy.
The numbers are impressive enough: 72,000 square feet of space, equal
to 1 1/2 acres under one roof, filled with 600 booths and lighted showcases
rented by 359 merchants. (Use of the term dealer is discouraged
at the mall due to its negative connotation.) The men and women in the
red vests, including general manager Nic Nicoson, keep everything running
Numbers are important to Nicoson. They serve as a yardstick to measure
the malls progress. In July, Exit 76 set records for items sold
on an event day at 173 per hour during Customer Appreciation
Day and the number of customers in a single month, at 17,730.
The mall had buyers from 44 states and tied a record for the percentage
of customers who bought something: 36 percent.
Albert Skaggs, who co-owns the mall with Norm Schlemmer, said location
and management play the biggest roles in the success of the business.
The mall is located on I-65, about 30 miles south of Indianapolis, adjacent
to the 70-store Edinburgh Premium Outlets.
More than 5 million people stop here in this interchange every
year, said Skaggs, quoting figures he said are about four years
old. The cluster of businesses also includes gas stations, restaurants
A builder-developer in central Indiana, Skaggs is responsible for the
malls creation and location. I conceived the whole idea
not knowing anything about antiques, he said.
The mall opened in May 2000 and originally included 20,000 square feet
of space dedicated to a museum that focused on Chevrolet cars and trucks
made from 1955 to 1957, all in red, white or blue paint. The colors
werent by accident. Im very patriotic, Skaggs
by Don Johnson
Nic Nicoson stands
in a booth featuring a
Globe stove made
in Kokomo, Ind.
Nicoson has been with
the mall since
it opened in 2000.
Management was a key to the malls success from the
beginning, with 70 percent of the booths and showcases rented when Exit
76 opened. Skaggs eventually decided to sell the Chevys and dedicate
the entire building to antiques. Today, all the space is rented, and
the mall has a waiting list of merchants eager to get in.
Nothing at the mall is done by chance. By visiting antiques malls in
four states, Skaggs identified several key elements included in the
buildings design and the malls operation good lighting,
availability of food, a place to rest and security. Many customers may
not consciously think about the lighting and security, but the Subway
restaurant within the building and a lounge, complete with a big-screen
television, are hard to miss.
Nicoson isnt bothered by the larger size of some malls. I
dont really care to be the biggest. I want to be the best,
he said. I think its more important to be the finest in
the Midwest than to be the biggest.
The management and merchants at Exit 76 concentrate on quality and consistency.
A Merchant Committee made up of eight people work with Nicoson, serving
as what he calls a communication line.
The mall is proactive in building its reputation. We were told
when we started that the greatest threat of antique malls is becoming
a flea market, Skaggs said.
We do an evaluation of every booth and case two to three times
a year, he said. One of three teams examines each booth, scoring
it on presentation of merchandise, quantity of merchandise, quality
of merchandise, and tagging of merchandise, based on 25 points per category.
Merchants who score less than 70 receive individualized attention aimed
at improving their business.
Customers impressions of Exit 76 are vital, not only determining
whether those people will return, but also influencing what they will
say to others about the mall. In a survey, customers cited word of mouth
as the biggest factor in drawing them to the mall. Exit 76 also uses
billboards, ads in 16 publications and spots on an Indianapolis TV station
to bring in potential buyers. The malls website (www.exit76antiques.com)
also plays a role.
Skaggs and Nicoson noted that its the combination of a number
of factors that has led to the malls success, including location,
standards of excellence, advertising, cleanliness, organization, security
and customer service.
by Don Johnson
manager Nic Nicoson stands
in one of many booths at the mall.
The Red Vest Team plays an important role in the latter.
Nicosons philosophy for them is simple: Smile. Say hello.
Be there when needed. Get away when not. Other concepts also come
into play, such as the use of thank-you postcards for customers who
make sizable purchases. The idea came from one of the malls merchants,
who saw similar cards used elsewhere. Suggestions from merchants and
customers have led to a number of improvements at Exit 76.
To thank its shoppers, Exit 76 holds a Customer Appreciation Weekend
four times a year. The event offers discounts, door prizes and the chance
for customers to deal with many merchants face to face.
One simple proof that the mall is doing something right is that its
expertise is sought and its techniques are being copied. With Exit 76s
permission, one mall owner in northern Indiana plans to open Greenes
Exit 215 Antique Mall along I-65 at Rensselaer.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, said Nicoson.
For more information, call Exit 76 Antiques Mall at (812)
526-5998 or visit: www.exit76antiques.com.
Exit 76 Antique Mall, Edinburgh, Ind., is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.
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