Are Malls on the Way Out?

If you’re like me, the word “mall” conjures up images of teenage fun and good times with girlfriends. If you’re NOT like me, malls probably remind you of crowds, obnoxious young’ins, and pretty much general annoyance.  If you fall into the second camp, you might be pleased to know that malls as we know them are facing some serious challenges. But don’t get too excited – malls may yet have staying power!

“Let’s Go to the Mall…or Not”

Back in the day, the mall was where you could do all of your shopping. Also, it was pretty much the ONLY place where you could do all your shopping. Now you can pop online and buy whatever you want with the click of a button. While online shopping currently only makes up about 9% of retail sales, it certainly provides a challenge for traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Plus, getting to the nearest mall can be a real pain. You probably have to drive there, and if you’re trying to save on gas, you might choose to stay in your fuzzy slippies and hop online instead. I know that in my case, the coolest nearby mall is the Palisades in West Nyack, NY. In addition to paying for gas, we also have to pay a TOLL to get there!

Some shoppers are also finding malls less and less exciting. Many malls have the same stores, so it’s hard to find unique styles that no one else will have. Some consumers are turning to boutiques or vintage stores to find one-of-a-kind items and forgoing malls altogether. This is even true of teens, formerly malls’ biggest patrons, who are more and more seeking clothing that expresses their individuality (as discussed in this post about the decline of Abercombie & Fitch).

So What are Malls Doing About It?

While these challenges may seem pretty daunting, malls aren’t goin’ out like that. Malls are now focusing on the experience of shopping at the mall and the fun/socialization it can provide. Many malls, including the Palisades, are offering unique and exciting experiences OTHER than shopping, such as bowling, ice skating, and even a Ferris wheel, along with the usual restaurants and movie theaters. Malls are not just about the stores anymore!

Also, several malls are changing the type of stores that they include. Remember when the anchor stores in malls used to be department stores, and pretty high-end ones at that? Now anchor stores may not be clothing-related at all! For example, the Palisades has The Home Depot and Target as two of its anchor stores. Stores like these are bringing in different kinds of customers than malls have seen previously.

Will malls succeed in staying relevant in the face of recent challenges? Do you guys still shop at malls? What do you buy? Let us know in the comments!

Annnndddd here’s a video of Robin’s “Let’s Go to the Mall” from How I Met Your Mother, just ‘cause it’s funny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8pEzi1E5Og

Kristen P.

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