Daily Dose of iQ: Is the Mall Dead?

Mar 13, 2014 — Eric Stachowski

A recent New Yorker article posed the question "Are Malls Over?" (March 11), and told of the sad fate of the Woodville Mall in Northwood, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo. The mall, which opened in 1969, is being torn down, wrote Amy Merrick.

"So are countless other malls across the U.S. -- so many that there’s a Web site devoted to 'dead malls' that are out of commission. In some cases, the buildings have been converted into community colleges, corporate headquarters, or churches."

1960's-style malls are dying, but it's unfair to imply all malls are dead.

Merrick does a good job of documenting the demise of the suburban mall, but it's unfair to sound the death of all malls.

The shopping experience is being reinvented all around us, malls included. Why wouldn’t we expect 1960’s-style malls to be reinvented? With the vast majority or retail spending still happening in brick-and-mortar stores, the emphasis needs to be on how to present brick-and-mortar to a consumer with heightened expectations.

Caruso is building modern outdoor malls. These malls are more 'social destinations' than their extinct predecessors.

In the New Yorker article, Merrick also interviews local estate developer Rick Caruso, who is building newfangled outdoor malls with “a Main Street-meets-Vegas Strip feel, with skyrocketing fountains synchronized to music.”

A multi-experience provided by a multi-purpose destination, like what these malls offer, is certainly going to draw the attention of people –- not just singularly-minded, focused “consumers”, but “people” -- the social animals that we are.  We take time to eat out, go to movies, and grab a coffee. Doing some shopping while doing those other things seems more convenient, doesn’t it?

People will always go somewhere to buy something. That somewhere is always evolving.

I think it’s safe to say Amazon hasn’t killed all brick-and-mortar shopping –- just “some” brick-and-mortar shopping. Apple stores are a good example of where brick-and-mortar is actually better than its online alternative. That said, many Apple store shoppers may be showrooming, but Apple is just fine with that. This is kind of where “omnichannel” really applies. The key is to sell on all channels simultaneously, and Apple has a pretty good handle on its distribution channels to say the least.

So, mall or no mall, people will always have to go somewhere to buy something. That somewhere is always evolving.

Topics: Retail Operations, Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Customer Experience

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