by Lisa Grimaldi | February 01, 2007

Scottsdale Fashion SquareTired of fashion-addicted attendees sneaking out of sessions to power-shop? Here’s a solution: Plan a shopping tour or a special event at a local mall. Most malls -- ahem, shopping centers -- welcome groups with open arms; some will even throw in special gifts, coupons, private rooms for receptions and other incentives to entice visitors to shop till they drop. If malls sound like uninspired event venues, consider that some are quite spectacular, and attendees often will visit them anyway in the course of a multiday program.

To add some pizzazz, customize the event by providing personal shoppers (often available at no extra cost), a private refreshment area (ask mall management if outside caterers can be used for private events) and/or a concierge service where coats and packages can be checked. Most malls have event coordinators who can provide suggestions for enhancing the outing and make arrangements.

To find the best venue, contact the local convention and visitors bureau or an area destination management company. Mall management firms also can provide information and contacts at their retail centers. For example, The Phoenix-based Macerich Co. (480-994-8048; has a tourism department to help facilitate shopping events at its 76 centers across the country. Other upscale mall companies to try include the Los Angeles-based Westfield Group (310-478-4456;, with 121 centers, and The Mills Corp., based in Chevy Chase, Md. (301-968-6000;, with 39 properties in the United States.