Recession watch: Fewer kids at mall events


This post is part of a series about real-life signs we're in a recession.

One of my friends is in charge of marketing at a nearby mall, and works closely with their kids program. The program provides fun activities for children, during which parents can either put on a tiara or spend time shopping without junior in tow. Each event has its own theme, the latest being a cowboy day and before that, a princess party.

In the fall, the princess party attracted a huge crowd of tiara-toting tots whose company my wife enjoyed with her niece. The cowboy day, which took place last month, yielded only four young cowpokes, almost a tenth of the last event. It's really sad to see so many empty cowboy hats and stores around the mall on a Saturday.

Even though the event is free, attendance has been down due to a lack of incentive to use the free daycare the events provide. With a recession already in force or on its way, parents have less money to spend at the mall. Malls have been feeling the effects of a recession for several months; this lack of participation in free daycare is only one indicator.

Malls have been fighting retrenchment and a lack of shoppers since Christmas. Stores in malls near us have been closing over the past few months and whenever we go shopping, the walkways are devoid of shoppers with bags, filled instead with teens with no shopping agenda other than a soft pretzel. If free daycare and cowboy hats can't lure families into malls during a recession, what can?