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Virtual Mall is an Eyecatcher and is Growing

The S*U*N Virtual Mall, located in the north-central part of Pennsylvania is attracting attention from the press, potential store owners and shoppers

The mall, the first of its kind in the U.S., which opened had been planned since last November by entrepreneur Art Lieberman as a philanthropic method of keeping local brick and mortar businesses alive during the pandemic. Lieberman hoped to keep stores open, in a mall format, by charging only $100 a week rent paid monthly. However, even that fee was difficult for retailers who couldn’t even afford the electric bills in their own shops. He finally decided to offer two FREE months after the mall opened and targeted April first as the opening date.

Lieberman assembled a group of promotional people to help to market the unique idea. Virtual software company Exhibitor Connect offered a solution to the communication difficulty of no REAL contact between shopper and seller. Their answer: Video Chat, enabling both parties to speak to each other face-to-face and even accept credit card transactions without a “shopping cart”.

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Next, Heidi Criswell a computer artist, was recruited to design the actual stores which are unique, and ResNexus, a reservation and web design company, was hired to create the gateway website: www.sunvirtualmall.net, which is the information center for the project. It is there that the entrance to the mall can be found.

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Finally, Lieberman hired local promotional company Seven Mountains Media, to help market the stores utilizing video and radio advertising.

But April came and went and, although Lieberman spent tens of thousands of dollars to promote the mall, local merchants seemed fearful that the mall idea wouldn’t work. But Lieberman and his sales crew finally assembled 21 local stores, many of whom were well known locally and on July 19th, tied together with a media blitz centered in PA, the mall finally opened.

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The response was surprising. Lieberman recieived12 e-mails, 7 of which requested information of obtaining a store. Others asked questions about shopping, although the experience is extremely simple for the computer novice.

Two phone calls were even more encouraging. That very evening, the mall was the opening news item on WNEP, the local ABC affiliate, on their 7 PM newscast. The other call came from CNBC about doing a feature about the mall on the cable TV network.

This past week, two more stores have been added to the mall, with nearly a half dozen more pending,

Lieberman’s theory for success is simple. Real malls have always been a place where many shops were found with one trip. In a virtual mall, the trip is eliminated. The handicapped and the elderly can now all shop with ease. Those who already use Amazon or shop on the web, can have the mall experience.

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