Malls Not Dead Yet Says Myth-Busting Cinnabon Prez
BonBites are indeed smaller than a Cinnabon Classic, but if you eat four of them it’s sadly still a diet-buster.
Cinnabon is a standout on this year’s Franchise Times Top 200+ ranking, to be published in October, leading the treats category by far with systemwide sales up 8.3 percent and surprising those who have proclaimed the death of the shopping mall.
I asked Kristen Hartman, president of Cinnabon since March 2018, about the factors in that strong performance last year and she was humble enough NOT to take the bait when I noted her ascendancy to the top job coincided with a year of rising sales.
“We’re a third, a third, a third,” she said about domestic locations: a third in malls; a third in non-traditional locations like airports and amusement parks; and a third “mini-Cinnabons” located within sister brand Schlotzskys.
“Malls are an important venue for us, because we look at malls where the greatest emotional connection is made with the brand. In spite of the headwinds that exist in malls, we see a lot of opportunity in the A malls,” she said.
“Our performance in malls is really strong. Our comp sales in malls is even stronger than our full” sales from all locations.
I told her Jennifer Schuler, the CEO of Wetzel’s Pretzels, had said something similar when she debunked the demise of the mall, at least if they’re A malls—that the tenants at malls are migrating away from retail and toward experience.
Hartman agreed. “Malls are shifting and for brands like ours, it works to our advantage because we are a sensory experience, and malls want to bring more sensory experience to their guests,” she said.
Hartman said her focus is “on building relevance for the brand. We know that what really matters is building relevance among today’s consumers. That’s tended to center around: smart menu innovations; compelling marketing, which is PR and social; and the store design.”
Menu innovation, in particular, is imperative, she believes, citing Bon Bites as Exhibit A. They’re smaller versions of Cinnabon’s Classic roll. Introduced systemwide at the beginning of 2017, Bon Bites continue to grow in popularity as “something that gives you a little more permission”to snack because the calorie count is lower. “Our Classic roll is our biggest seller but if we hadn’t diversified and offered different sizes and portions,”some customers would be lost.
But wait, I ask, how many calories are in a Bon Bite? “Just over a hundred calories each,” she said, then offers a sad punch line. “We serve them four to an order.”
There goes another myth, that anything you can eat in two bites or under doesn’t count against your diet.