Shopping: Can the mall get you to come back?
If it seems like stores are closing in your mall, they are, said Esther Fung in The Wall Street Journal. Retailers have already shuttered nearly 6,000 stores in 2019, more than the number of closures for all of last year. The depressing figures revive fears of a “retail apocalypse” emptying malls and shopping centers across the country. As commerce continues to move online, another 75,000 stores could be doomed by 2026. Last year, “shopping centers benefited from the expansion of beauty chains like Sephora and Ulta,” and consumer spending was strong, creating the appearance of a rebound. However, the bankruptcies of Payless ShoeSource, Gymboree, and Charlotte Russe “point to more trouble ahead.” Malls are increasingly turning toward tenants that can provide unique experiences, like Apple or the Italian food mecca Eataly, said Lauren Thomas in CNBC.com. But so far, those kinds of stores “haven’t been drawing in extra traffic” to the rest of the mall. So mall owners are looking for the next thing, such as pop-ups that quickly rotate through new brands.
Here’s the trouble with malls: There are too many stores, said Russ Wiles in The Arizona Republic. On average, there are 23.5 square feet of retail space per person in the U.S. That’s “10 times the comparable retail footprint in Germany.” The stores that struggle “lack desirable products, don’t offer fun or interesting shopping experiences, and haven’t continued to innovate.” There’s a surprising group that continues to prosper, said Brad Tuttle in Money.com: Discount stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx are still growing at a healthy clip. They offer shoppers “something of a treasure hunt that can’t be easily replicated online.” Their inventory constantly changes, so finding quirky items becomes “an exciting experience that is clearly resonating with today’s shoppers.”
New York City is one place bucking the trend. Manhattan “just opened its third new mall in five years,” said Maria Halkias in The Dallas Morning News. So, can New York actually “make malls trendy again?” It’s trying with the Shops at Hudson Yards, which boasts New York’s first outpost of Dallas native Neiman Marcus and previously internet-only brands such as Mack Weldon and Rhone. A store called The Conservatory delivers most purchases to your home. “The only things customers leave The Conservatory with are fresh flowers and one-of-a-kind items.” This is supposed to be the Mall of the Future, said Cam Wolf in GQ.com. But at the end of the day, Hudson Yards is still a mall. It might try to draw you in with art and copper stairs that look like “climbable sculpture.” But it faces the same reality as other retailers: “Can’t customers do all this shopping without getting out of bed?” ■