Shopping malls evolution

imagesSpending a tremendous part of my life in shopping malls I am fascinated by their evolution.  Enclosed shopping malls filled with stores were first built in the late 50’s and started to speed up the development in the late 60’s.  I grew up shopping at the Montgomery Mall in MD.  On occasion we would go to Tyson’s Corner but it was overwhelming compared to the intimacy of the Montgomery Mall.  I’d spend hours there.  Not sure what we did but kids hung out at the mall.  Then I ended up working in retail when I graduated college and landed in the Kings Plaza Mall.

Over time the department stores that were the anchors of those malls started to lose their market share to singular vertical operations such as Gap, Ann Taylor and others.  Then Amazon showed up and everything changed.  People still shop at the mall but the reality is that people between 18-34 are most likely to make purchases online.  As those people get older with deeper pockets they begin to spend less time in shopping malls.  They are shopping for convenience…and you can for clothing, electronics, groceries, music, etc.

So what happens to all that great real estate?  We spend so much time on our computers and our mobile phones that it is not surprising that people crave community.  Music festivals, museum exhibits, dinners at home with friends and family have become staples.  Malls are going to have to create reasons for people to go to the mall.

The North Park Mall in Dallas has started to rotate art installations like a gallery does.  They also did a two week stint of free ballet classes from a master.  There are interesting pop-ups started to take place at the Roosevelt Mall in LI.  That mall is bringing in new restaurants, weekend deals and points.

There are also many of the ecommerce brands that have started to realize that they need to have brick and mortar along with their mobile app.  It builds up the brand, builds up the customer loyalty and makes for a better balance sheet.

Bottom line the malls are trying to figure out that there has to be something of interest to draw people in besides a desire for a new pair of jeans.  Brick and mortar must become an experience worth having.