MCALLEN, RGV – Looking to lure more shoppers from Mexico City to the Rio Grande Valley, Isabel Rodriguez, area director of marketing & business development for La Plaza Mall, recently visited Mexico City as part of a delegation from McAllen.
The delegation visited Polanco, a famous and upscale district in Mexico City. The neighborhood is notable because of its cultural diversity and is home to some of the wealthiest families in Mexico.
On the visit, representatives from La Plaza Mall, the City of McAllen, McAllen Convention and Visitors Bureau, McAllen Chamber of Commerce, McAllen International Airport, and Aeromar hosted McAllen Day at the W hotel.
Rodriguez said McAllen Day was designed to promote the McAllen area and La Plaza Mall. She pointed out La Plaza Mall have always promoted itself in Mexico, but due to recent expansions and added stores, the mall decided to make an even bigger splash in Mexico City, by hosting an expo, a fashion show, and a press conference.
“They had only expected about 150 people, yet they exceeded the capacity of the room. Many travel agents and media were there, and overall it was a very successful event,” Rodriguez said.
In addition to creating awareness about McAllen as a destination city, the visit also served to further relationships with friends and colleagues in Mexico, Rodriguez told the Rio Grande Guardian in an exclusive interview.
Other VIPs on the trip included Roberto Luciano, general manager of La Plaza Mall, Joe Brown, a former banker who serves as chair of the McAllen International Airport Advisory Board, Elizabeth Suarez, director of the McAllen International Airport, Andrés Fabre, CEO of Aeromar Airlines, Steve Ahlenius, president of McAllen Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Millar, vice president of the McAllen Convention & Visitors Bureau, Rebecca Olaguibel, retail & business development director for the City of McAllen, and Mike Hernande, director of parks & recreation for the City of McAllen.
The backdrop to the visit is the falling sales tax revenues experienced by McAllen over the past year. The city has not been able to attract as many Mexican shoppers and this has hurt sales. Various reasons have been given, including the Mexico Peso being worth less against the U.S. dollar, violence in Reynosa, and rhetoric against Mexico by President Trump. By courting Mexico City shoppers, who would likely visit the Valley by air, McAllen leaders believe they can overcome the violence in Reynosa issue.
When asked about people not wanting to come to McAllen due to the comments of President Trump, Rodriguez said: “La Plaza Mall has been open for over 40 years, and regardless of who has been in power we’ve always welcomed Mexico, and we welcome people from many countries as well with open arms, and none of that will change just because of who is in power.”
Ever since #AdiosMcAllen, a social media campaign urging Mexican shoppers in Monterrey and Reynosa to boycott McAllen – in retaliation against Trump – was launched earlier this year, the economy has suffered. Sales tax revenues have fallen 6.4 percent. To regain Mexican shoppers and tourists, the City of McAllen spent $270,000 to launch a marketing campaign, “Amigos Always.”
Hosting McAllen Day has strengthened the relationship between McAllen and Mexico, by showing Mexico that its people are welcome in the Valley, Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez said, recent months have been “an especially exhilarating time” for La Plaza Mall, Rodriguez said, with many renovations, infrastructure improvements, and additions currently taking place. There will be many stores added to the mall such as Zara, H&M, Kendra Scott, and a new T-Mobile corporate store, along with new restaurants such as Texas Brazil and Palenque Grill, Rodriguez shared.
“We’re excited about what’s coming, these are stores people have asked for a long time,” Rodriguez said. “So these expansion of 245,000 sq. feet is really going to offer more stores, services, and goods to our shoppers.”
On November 1st the unveiling of a new wing will take place, and the new area will open to the public, Rodriguez explained. Not all the new stores will be open by then, she said, as different phases of construction are set to be complete on different dates. Nonetheless, many exciting additions will occur in the near future, Rodriguez predicted. Those include a new holiday décor, new soft seating and seating areas throughout the mall, a larger parking garage, remodeled restrooms, and much more.
“We are still here continuing to grow, so that’s a sign of the faith that we have in the market and our community,” Rodriguez said “So, it’s really a good thing that we’re continuing to invest.”
Recently, three new stores were opened at La Plaza Mall – Torrid, Love Culture, and Doc Popcorn/Dippin Dots. Interactive electronic directories were also brought to the mall. These directories can text instructions on how to get to a store’s phone number, feature special sales that are occurring in specific stores at the mall, and provide an interactive map of the mall.
In September, the La Plaza Mall plans to have a behind the scenes tour, and by November 1st the new wing will be available to shoppers. What’s more, Rodriguez said, in early May 2018 there will be a even more stores opening their doors to shoppers from Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley.