Malls Are at Risk; Retail is Changing

The decline of American shopping malls is attributed to online retail and economic recession. People’s outlooks on spending money are changing alongside their wallets.

The Change

Throughout the years, I’ve witnessed a local mall completely shift.

At first, it was like your typical mall. It had clothing shops and more goods based retail. Now the mall is filled with businesses that contribute to someone’s experiences. I’m going to call this experience-based consumerism.

Experience Based Consumerism

a new bowling alley

What occupies that mall today is different than a few years ago. Rather then clothing shops, the mall currently has:

  • A movie theater
  • A bowling alley
  • An arcade
  • A gym
  • An escape room
  • A salon
  • Laser Tag
  • A karate studio
  • An indoor Go kart racing track

What do all of these places have in common? They contribute to people’s experiences. As we’re seeing a trend towards frugality, we’re also seeing people who are more interested in meaningful purchases. Meaningful purchases equates to quality experiences.

Shops That Contribute to Experiences

How could this outlive a recently closed Best Buy? Unlike technology, Joann’s provides something that you can’t easily obtain online. Fabric.

The only type of goods based retail I’ve noticed is still successful (other than anchor stores) are the ones that are curated towards someone’s personal interests and life experiences. In the local mall, we also have:

  • A Joann’s Fabrics (For people interested in sewing and other creative activities)
  • A Dick’s sporting goods (For people looking for sport related gear and equipment)

The reason these businesses were able to last is that they enhance people’s life experiences. Whether it’s to pick up some fabrics for a costume project or purchase a kayak, these businesses offer something special to the customer.

Malls Repurposed

As we move into the future, I envision that malls are going to become destinations for experiences. Dying retail malls should consider reinventing their property to fulfill the interests of today’s society.

I could imagine that in the far future, malls will be repurposed. Maybe they’ll be transformed into experimental micro-cities or indoor parks. I could see some creative workshop hubs, coworking spaces, and entrepreneurial accelerators as a part of this change.

Perhaps malls will become hubs of sustainable agriculture. Marketplaces of hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables!

The possibilities are endless.

But will Retail Survive?

I think retail will survive but it going through some changes.

Here’s a list of some interesting links:

These haunting photos of the retail apocalypse

Trends That Will Redefine Retail

Retail Isn’t Dead, It’s Changing

75 Ways Retail Will Change in the Next Decade

Final Thoughts

I’m optimistic about the shift of malls and the change in retail. I know it’s a scary thing for people at risk of losing their jobs, but ultimately through adaptation, I believe that the change can be survived.