Malls Welcomed Dogs. The Results Have Been Ruff.
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Malls Welcomed Dogs. The Results Have Been Ruff.

Shopping centres adopt pet-friendly ‘pawlicies,’ and cope with puppy accidents and greyhounds running up and down the escalators

By SUZANNE KAPNER
Fri, Dec 16, 2022 8:46amGrey Clock 3 min

NORWALK, Conn.—It was Weston Bear Marshall’s first time at the mall and he wasn’t up on his etiquette. Soon after arriving on Black Friday, the two-year-old lifted his leg and peed on an information sign.

“He’s marking his territory,” said Vincent Marshall, owner of the Old English sheepdog.

Malls are desperate to revive foot traffic after years of losing customers to e-commerce. That includes the four-footed kind, despite the occasional mishap.

“Not everyone makes it to the puppy-relief stations,” said Matthew Seebeck, senior general manager of the Norwalk, Conn., mall, called the SoNo Collection.

The mall’s doggie code of conduct, also known as the “pawlicy,” requires its furrier patrons to use the puppy facilities, which are equipped with patches of fake grass, plastic bags and paper towels. Owners who don’t follow the rules, which also require leashes, can be banned for up to a year. No one has been blacklisted yet, Mr. Seebeck said.

Weston’s human staff carried on with their shopping after his accident. The family posed for a photo with Santa and then lingered as shoppers came over to pet the 80-pound animal.

“If anyone’s nervous, he’ll win them over,” Mr. Marshall predicted. “He’s a very social dog. He’s thinking, ‘I want to introduce myself to all these people.’ That’s what is going through his doggie brain.”

Pacific Retail Capital Partners, which operates 22 malls in 12 states, has six pet-friendly centers and plans for a seventh next year, said Najla Kayyem, its executive vice president of marketing.

“People who have pets are a breed of their own and we want to be able to reach them,” she said.

The Eastridge Center in San Jose, Calif., has a Mini Cat Town, for playing with kittens up for adoption. At the Monroe Crossing Mall in Monroe, N.C., cats and bunnies on leashes scamper in for pet night with Santa, said marketing manager Wendi McCall. One shopper needed approval from Santa to bring a snake.

On Black Friday in 2021, two greyhounds busted loose from their owner at the SoNo Collection. “You could see the crowds of people parting as they ran up and down the escalator,” recalled Mr. Seebeck.

Another day at the same mall, a Great Dane took out a sweater display at the Altar’d State clothing chain. Earlier this year, a dog deposited a trail of poop outside H&M. Shoppers nearby barked at the owner to clean up after her pup, but she high-tailed it out, canine in tow.

The Rosedale Center in Roseville, Minn., for a time allowed dogs on Sunday mornings, but discontinued that. They overran the mall and left hair on garments, said Molly King, a manager there. “For every dog lover,” she added, “there is a dog not lover.”

Mike Lambrakis, of Tustin, Calif., lately has noticed more pooches while shopping. “I’ll be looking at clothing and suddenly there is a dog sniffing my leg,” said the 36-year-old financial adviser, who is allergic. “It makes it easier to justify shopping online.”

Ed Taylor, founder of the Worldwide Santa Claus Network said his members, who often play Kris Kringle at shopping centers, have been peed on, bitten and scratched. And he doesn’t mean by the children.

He has posed with goats, chickens, snakes and lizards at malls around the country, and a small lap dog once chomped on his finger. “He didn’t draw blood, but it was a shock,” said Mr. Taylor, who still enjoys seeing pets among shoppers.

The Foothills Mall in Maryville, Tenn., is pet friendly. Does it advertise that? Nope.

“If we did, then everyone would come with their animals and that would be more than we could handle,” said Tia Spires, the mall’s general manager.

Last month, Rod Morton, a 58-year-old advertising executive, was walking his goldendoodle Truly at the SoNo Collection mall in Connecticut. It was cold and rainy outside, with other challenges inside the mall.

The Nordstrom there offers complimentary puppuccinos, which are cups of whipped cream. Truly loves them—who wouldn’t?—but then races around on a sugar high, said Mr. Morton.

Another dog owner, Adam Bomberger, waited with his golden retriever Bailey outside of Aerie, where Mr. Bomberger’s girlfriend was shopping.

The store was too crowded for Bailey’s liking, according to Mr. Bomberger, a 34-year-old media technology specialist. He also has to steer Bailey away from stores that sell candles because the pup likes to lick the scented wax.

Nearby, Paisley and Bentley, both Pomeranians, were yapping and yipping like canine carolers. “They get excited,” explained Michael Lopez, a 22-year-old student at Sacred Heart University who was shopping with his girlfriend Valerie Navas, a 21-year-old nursing student.

Ms. Navas said the dogs tinkle on the rug almost every time they come to the mall. “They think the rug is a huge pee mat,” she said.



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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.

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