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.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    My favorite mall is Chelsea Market.Actually the only one I go to.

    1. Gotham Gal

      well that is certainly an experience worth having.

  2. Jeff Jones

    Americas oldest indoor mall in Providence did a great job of reinventing by combining unique retailers with micro apartments.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Providence is doing a lot of cool things! A great city for creatives and pioneering types.

    2. Gotham Gal

      very cool

  3. Jeff Jones

    I was in my hometown of Scranton PA recently and the Steamtown Mall in downtown Scranton had just sold in an online auction for 5.25 MM or $9.40/SF. It was built in 1993 for $90 MM as the centerpiece of a downtown revitalization effort.

    1. Erin

      Wow! 5MM. I used to want to own a mall when I was a teenager. I wanted a skater-themed mall that sold the clothes, music, video games and equipment- everything needed for the full skater experience. 5 mil almost puts that dream (or a more updated version) within reach!

  4. Jenna Abdou

    Definitely curious to see what happens here. I can count the number of times I’ve been to the mall during the last few few years on one hand and really don’t enjoy my experience when I’m there.

  5. lisa hickey

    It does seem to go along with the trend towards “experiences not stuff”. So if the mall can be made into an experience in and of that’s how they can survive. (And wandering around the malls I hate, I often wondered how they could survive). I like the idea of continuing to make them more community oriented. The same way you could have a whole strategy for an online site on how to make it more of a community, you could have a whole strategy for a mall on how to make it more of a community.

  6. Sierra Choi

    “Brick and mortar must become an experience worth having.”I couldn’t agree more. I would love to know what some of your top, favourite brick and mortar and eCommerce sites are if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Net-a-Porter, Food52, Amazon…just three top of mind..

  7. awaldstein

    Point about having a brick and mortar on the balance sheet is so so true.Experiencing that now. With a smart investment it can become a game changer.

  8. pointsnfigures

    I think you are right. I think the funeral for shopping malls is too premature. Especially in places with extreme weather (heat or cold). The mall is cliche no doubt. But, people generally like to be with people and if they can create community around the space, it will survive. One way would be to put co-working spaces in malls.