After midnight.. Mannequins become alive!

“Where Shopping meets Entertainment” is the slogan of the mall I work at. To keep up with our statement, the management works hard to ensure visitors overall satisfaction, present a new shopping and entertaining experience and to operate at full capacity during trading hours. To do so, extensive amount of work must be done after hours, after the last customer leaves the mall.


So what happens at midnight when the mall is closed? The answers would be: the mall becomes alive! Over 340 stores open their doors one more time to be cleaned, new inventory moved in, showcase items are replaced and mannequins are re-dressed. The mall’s Operation Team has to provide enough security members to ensure nothing is stolen from stores, they also issue work permits for external suppliers and cleaning companies as well as create a daily working schedule covering all the activities that will happen between midnight to 8am.


The real challenge..

Besides coordinating stores related activities, the Operation Team plays a huge role prior to launching new promotional campaigns along with other departments. This includes Marketing, Finance and Maintenance, as they have to plan and schedule setting-up and dismantling large promotional displays in less than 8 hours, also including the following tasks:

–  Shipping the display items into the mall through loading bays, and providing proper transportation

–  Replacing signage and banners around the mall, including banners hanging from the mall’s sealing 40 meters high.

–  Monitor the storing of old display items and banners.

–  Ensure all extra waste is removed and the mall is ready to open its door for visitors.


We learned in our last class about project scheduling and performing Critical Path analysis. I realized that our mall management uses the same analysis while planning campaign launches. As we will be working against the clock, the management creates a Backward Pass plan, beginning with the last event that is due at 8 am and working backwards. Time is always a priority in such projects, and if extra costs are needed to meet the 8 am deadline the management can only agree to pay.


3am Surprises..

Although the team spends over a month planning an 8 hour project with the suppliers and assembling company, there is always a chance for unexpected errors that might affect the project’s working path. It happened in several occasions that a supplier would discover in the middle of the working progress that there is a missing piece from the display, or banners need to be re-printed as they are in the wrong size. Solving such problems is not easy, as printing and production companies are closed, arranging extra staff is challenging and some decision makers will be in deep sleep at the time of these tragedies.


Fortunately, the mall management was able to solve such problems, bearing extra costs of course. The question is what can be done to prevent such problems and can this be done without additional costs?

25 thoughts on “After midnight.. Mannequins become alive!

  1. Great post Ahmed.

    Your writing made me think a lot about what happens in shopping malls after midnight. I agree with you that this type of projects concentrate mainly on the end time because of the nature of the shopping mall business. One way to prevent cost additions is to generate a contingency plan in order to manage problems accurately.

    1. Thanks Ahmed, now I can see the difference between your type of long-term projects in Housing and short-term projects that should be done over night. Both are channeling!

  2. I found myself wondering how all this work is done during closing time!! I did not think about what is happening after the mall is closed for visitors before. It is obvious that any project should meet the desired deadline even if extra cost is needed. Actually problems can be happened during the project progress which may delay the deadline, but problems can be solved by adding extra resources such as labor and materials. To prevent such problems any project should be planned properly, for your case banners could be tested during the closing time before the due date in case any changes are required without spending more cost in changing them on the deadline.

    1. That’s right, we always try to finish as much work as we can before the event, sparing some days to revise all material before the event is also important. Thanks Maryam!

  3. Enjoyed reading the post Ahmed and was amazed with amount of work that needs to be done after closing, I always thought that malls where empty at midnight before reading this post!! U said in the post that management of the mall must pay any additional costs in order to meet the deadline at 8:00am, which I think that it’s related in a way to the exercise we did in class with the pasta & marshmallows. In both projects time is the most important thing, and then comes cost. so mangers would pay extra just to finish on time and meet the deadline.

    1. Totally agree with you Khaled, although balance is important. If we had to shoose one, it will be time over money in such cases.

  4. I’m really surprise that the mall will still have to work after midnight , I really enjoy reading the blog and it clarify for me what really the project management how they hander there task and work to meet the dead line , I recognize that the most important things is to meet the objective of the project with considering the cost so you will be in the right path of a successful manger .
    Great job

  5. Ahmed, this is a very fascinating perspective on the behind-the-scenes working of a mall. I think most people, like me, never think of all that goes on at a mall during the night hours. The part I found the most interesting was how the mall management works on a Backward Pass plan and yet has to handle crisis management issues in the middle of the night! In my experience, plans hardly ever go perfectly – some glitches usually occur, no matter how carefully one plans the details. I can imagine how difficult it must be to coordinate not only the cleaners and workers but also the various campaigns launched by the different stores in the mall, all within just eight hours in the middle of the night.

    1. Thanks Luqman. it is challenging to work against the clock, but it feels good once the campaign is over.

  6. Totally agree with you. It is quite a different scene once the mall closes its doors! In line with my work, we have a lot of functions and activities held in the mall. The night prior to each event, we are usually there by 12am, working overnight on the setup in order to have it ready by the time the mall opens. We have many who approach us and say that they have been there the day before and it wasn’t there… How did you manage to set this up? Taking into account that we have only 8 hours to setup everything, we usually plan and design the display platform based on that. In 8 hours, you would be having a platform setup with luxurious flooring, lightings and screens set and functioning. The planning for the whole event however, takes us around a month. It requires long hours and hard work to plan and launch a successful event or campaign.

    1. That’s right Nariman, people leave the mall at night, come come back the next morning and find a huge displays that is 4 times the size of our class!

  7. Great post ahmed, i too found your post quite interesting especially the part on how you plan and schedule the set ups in the mall. i i never thought about the time and effort it takes you to manage the mall. Next time im in any mall, ‘ll appreciate all the hanging banners.
    one thought on what can be done to possibly help with the sudden problems you encounter, i wonder if you have a large storage area with all the old SALE signs and billboard, Mannequins, pieces of wood, stages. i personally think you could somehow reuse some things for future campaigns.

    1. Thanks Nada, The Marketing department has 3 stores hidden around the mall, and they are quite large. We actually reuse some of the items, but unfortunately the printed banners are disposable as they carry the campaign’s name and dates, so they get recycled.

  8. First of all that was a great post, I have never thought of the displays in different places around the malls required that much of work and effort. It is nice to imagine how much work is being done behind the scene! General information about that mall is that it’s managed professionally and it’s meeting high standards as well, which explains this entire good job your team members are doing out there.

    However; the challenges that faced you and your team members are not easy to be solved; because the next morning your displays and banners should be ready for show time! Do you think managing that by experience can reduce the error sometimes?

    1. Hi Noor, surely the number of errors is getting less with time and experience. It is important to keep previous mistakes into consideration when planning future projects.

  9. First of all, thank you Ahmed for this very interesting and informative post. I have always wondered what goes on in malls after closing time; when do all the huge banners get put up, when are all the mannequins redressed, how are malls always impeccably ready to operate the next day … etc. In answer to your question, I think the simplest and most obvious solution, as well as most cost effective is; double checking everything. For instance, double check all banners before they leave the printing company to get transported to the mall, and double check the quantity and quality of all the supplies being delivered before they are delivered. While it seems this requires a whole lot of time to accomplish, wouldn’t it be better to spend more time making sure everything is as it should be rather than run around attempting to fix things at 3 a.m.? But then again, that’s just my opinion 🙂

    1. I totally agree with you Layal, extensive planning in advance save time and reduce faults, yet there is always a chance of errors beyond our control to occur, one thing I learned is to “expect the unexpected” at the very last stages of project.

  10. it’s so interesting to know how things work..all that massive effort in a very short time .. really appreciated.
    from my point of view I think there is no way to have a perfect plan and avoid errors or unwanted results, however, good planning will reduce the probability of such errors and it would also help minimize the impact of unwanted results.
    Another thing that might also help is lessons learned. Through out the different stages of a project, we encounter different issues and situations that would require special or critical handling.
    All those issues, events and resolutions should be documented and used as a reference for future projects. 
    You can’t imagine how similar issues keep reoccurring in different projects !

    1. Great feedback Bashayer, it is very important to have event recap and post-event analysis after once the event is over

  11. Great post Ahmed.

    Unfortunately everything has a cost. There is a quote that say: Time is Money, which is very true, when you need more time and can’t get, you buy more efforts to deliver within the expected timeframe. Projects always have three main components being Time, Cost and Scope, in Project Management we call it the triple constraints, in which a change in either one component will effect either one or both of the other components. My suggestion on how to expect the unexpected, is by going through the lessons learned from previous projects, and always have some buffer in case if anything went wrong.

    1. I totally agree with you Nada, balance is required between all three components! After all, Project Management is your field and you know it better 🙂

  12. It is surprising how redesigning of malls and the way they are made without the knowledge of customers. I strongly believe that this requires a high degree of operations management to have all changes made in time. In terms of the malls management, they are required to put in very rigid policies to insure that customers will not be affected by any of the works that are required. On the other hand, the contractor doing the work in the mall should have a well defined plan to complete the task in hand given the time constrant. If both fail, the mall will suffer reputational damage from its customers and the contractor will be hit by a fine from the mall’s management.

  13. Outsourced contractors play a major role in our events, it is important to build long-term relationships and make them familiar with the mall mechanics. I also agree that customers should enjoy their time at shopping centers without being involved in any preparation phases at all. Thanks Hussa!

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