I am not what you would call a shopping enthusiast but yesterday I needed some last minute items before we leave on our vacation in a few days. I decided to make a trip to our town’s mall and was kind of surprised to see how busy it was there. Especially for it being in the morning. After all, I’ve been hearing from various TV investors that the malls are dead because Amazon and online retail is crushing everyone. So the question is, are shopping malls really on the verge of being a dying breed?
The Shopping Mall Craze of the 90’s
Although the first shopping center was built in 1956, 1990 is the year in which the shopping mall hit its peak popularity. As a young kid, visiting our local mall (about 2 hours from where we live now) was a pretty fun experience. All the of available square footage was used by various stores and there were a lot of people hanging around. Of course as a youngster, the appeal of arcades, music stores, and toy stores made things a lot more fun. I recall that ours had a large fountain at one time and people would throw pennies and such into it. I’m actually glad to read supported facts about this time period being the boom mall shopping years and not just an illusion of being young. After all, professional wrestling, baseball cards, and video games were also cool at that age. I suppose video games still are to an extent.
I remember the Christmas season to be kind of a magical time at the malls. Not only were the stores fully decorated and plum full of merchandise, but the middle of the mall was also jam packed with various vendors. It was kind of an uplifting experience, even if you didn’t purchase anything. It was a vibrant place to be.
The Present Day Decline
Fast forward 25-30 years give or take and look where we are. Online shopping has totally changed the retail game. Consumers have the ability to shop and compare prices to similar products from the comforts of their living room. About a third of the malls in our country have dreadful sales per square foot. Many of the higher end clothing stores are moving out. Our former closest mall that I mentioned earlier is in terrible decline and has been for several years. There are several stores sitting empty and there certainly isn’t anything remotely close to a positive vibe about that place. In fact depressing is more like the term I would use. The best things about that place now is a new movie theater and a fitness facility that moved in.
I am as guilty as anyone. We order from Amazon somewhat frequently and it certainly doesn’t hurt my feelings to usually avoid shopping malls. There are times though that it is nice to see what you are getting in person. And of course getting the correct sizing if we are talking about clothing. In our current city, the largest mall seems to be doing pretty well. All of the store lots are being utilized and the traffic seems steady. There is a difference of about 100,000 people though from this city compared to the city of the dying mall I describe above.
I hope the malls can survive, for nostalgia if nothing else. I think there can be a place for both online retail and malls but it will probably never be like the old days. Things change and retail is no different. When I was a kid, Kmart was the giant. Then Walmart put them basically out of business. Now it appears as though Amazon might be on the path of doing the same to them. On and on it goes. It is the nature of the corporate beast.
Question to the Readers- Have you noticed a decline in shopping malls or mall traffic in your location?