The Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield mall group has landed a leasing prize with the news that the first Nerf Action Xperience attraction in North America will open at one if its premier malls, Westfield Garden State Plaza in New Jersey.
That mall will also get another experiential attraction themed around Hasbro
The announcement that Hasbro licensing partner, Kingsmen Xperience, Inc., will be opening the two attractions at the mall is the result of a plan by Hasbro to transform its toy brands into multifaceted entertainment and lifestyle brands that go far beyond the toy box.
The plan reflected the vision of late Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, and Nerf was picked as the perfect toy brand to test that vision. Goldner in early 2021 outlined plans for a Nerf TV show, a TikTok channel, a virtual reality game, an NFL partnership, and other brand extensions, including entertainment arcades where players could try out Nerf blasters and engage in battles using the toys, which fire foam-tipped darts.
Nerf’s enthusiatic fan base
Nerf is a brand with an enormous and highly-engaged fan base around the world, a fan base that turns out in the thousands for Nerf battles and meetups. In 2019, Kingsmen Creatives LTD, the parent company of the U.S. subsidiary opening the first U.S. Nerf entertainment center, opened the first example of its Nerf-themed entertainment centers in 2019 in Singapore.
The pandemic stalled Kingsmen’s plans for a global rollout of the Nerf entertainment centers. The announcement of the Nerf and Playskool attractions coming to Westfield Garden State Plaza “msrks the resumption of our drive to deliver new and unparalleled experiences around the world, after a two year hiatus,” Andrew Cheng, Group CEO of Kingsmen, said. “Markets are opening up and there is demand for such immersive and engaging branded content,” Cheng said.
The 25,000 square-foot Nerf Action Experience at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J. not only will be a place where visitors can play with Nerf blasters, but will also be venue for company team-building outings, children’s birthday parties, and other events.
The Nerf site, and the 20,000 Planet Playskool will occupy the last two remaining vacancies in the former J.C. Penney department store at the mall, which the mall has been converting into new retail space.
The two attractions are expected to open in the second half of 2023.
A win for Westfield
Getting the first Nerf Action Experience is a win for Westfield Garden State, as malls are vying for new experiences that will draw visitors to shopping malls, in an age when more and more shopping is done online.
“It’s a huge deal. You think about all the properties that they could look at in the country, and they chose to partner with URW and Garden State,” said Dennis Marnick, senior vice prresident, leasing at URW.
“It is going to continue to differentiate us from everything in the market,” Marnick said.
Westfield Garden State Plaza, one of the brightest stars in URW’s U.S. mall portfolio, has been making a push recently to attract family entertainment venues.
One of its top rivals, located just 10 miles south on the New Jersey Turnpike, the American Dream mall, last year announced that it had landed a Hasbro-themed attraction, The Gameroom Powered by Hasbro. The attraction was described as an arcade-style venue with video games and interactive games featuring Hasbro brands like Monopoly, GI Joe, and My Little Pony.
A spokesperson for American Dream said the mall has not yet announced an opening date for that attraction.
URW, based in Paris, acquired the Westfield malls in 2018, but announced this March that it plans to shed its U.S. malls by the end of 2023. Analysts reacted to that news by saying that while many of the 24 U.S. mall properties could prove to be a tough sell, the best-performing malls in the portfolio, like Westfield Garden State Plaza, could be attract buyers.
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