Fountain in front of the pink American Girl storefront

Doll craze gives American Girl store successful Easton opening

June 25th, 2013

By Tim Feran, The Columbus Dispatch
June 25, 2013

Columbus’ new American Girl store at Easton Town Center is not the chain’s largest, and central Ohio is the smallest market in which the 27-year-old doll company has set up shop.

Even so, the store’s grand opening met or surpassed that of the other 14 stores in the chain.

While company officials wouldn’t divulge sales figures, they did say that 8,500 people walked through the doors of the 11,400-square-foot store during the weekend, which coincided with the opening of Easton’s new family-oriented Fenlon Square district.

“The opening was wildly successful, and we’re thrilled to be in the Columbus market,” said American Girl spokeswoman Susan Jevens.

“They’re off to a good start,” said retail analyst Chris Boring, principal at Boulevard Strategies. “They have quite a dedicated following, and the weather was perfect. It adds some vitality to Easton. Easton’s advantage in this market is there’s always something new going on.”

Many people did stand in line, but it wasn’t to get into the store. It was to get admission tickets to get into the store later.

Depending on the time of day, people had to wait an hour and a half — or not at all — for the admission tickets. Those who arrived at 7 a.m., for example, stood around for more than an hour for tickets while those who went later were able to snag a ticket without a wait, Easton officials said.

American Girl then called groups of shoppers one by one to ensure that the store was never too crowded.

While American Girl officials had announced that they would issue tickets starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday and at 8 a.m. Sunday, two hours before the store opened, some visitors didn’t know about the ticketing process until they arrived at Easton.

To relieve the heat for those who did wait, Giant Eagle brought in 60 cases of water and handed out all 1,440 bottles.

The event was just as big for some other retailers in Fenlon Square as it was for American Girl.

The nearby Rusty Bucket restaurant, for example, had its single best day in company history on Saturday.

“It was a great weekend for us, a record-breaking weekend,” said Steve Gibson, a manager at the Rusty Bucket. “There were a lot of American Girl families, and it was beautiful weather. There was lots of business, not just for us, but everybody.”

American Girl clearly was the focus of attention for many at Fenlon Square, and at least one retailer acknowledged it was an understandable distraction.

“Our associates told me people were very mission-oriented, going over to American Girl,” said Al Bell, CEO of Moochie & Co. “They were not as interested in additional shopping.”

As a result, sales at the pet-accessories store were up, but only slightly better than the same weekend last year.

“But I still feel it’s going to be a great thing for us, to be part of a destination,” Bell said. “We feel really good about the move. It’s a great location. We feel our future is going to be bright there.”

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