The Southdale Mall in Edina, MN opened in 1956, with the distinction of the first indoor mall in the United States. The idea of shopping in a large indoor venue without worrying about the weather outside took hold. By 1960, approximately 4,500 such centers opened. Then came oversaturation, lifestyle changes, online shopping – and the demise of the indoor mall.
Or maybe not.
A plethora of headlines during the past several years have ranged from doom and gloom – “Malls are Dying,” proclaimed the Washington Post in late 2019 – to a modicum of hope. According to a June 2022 article in The Atlantic, “Malls Aren’t Actually Dying.” A more realistic viewpoint was introduced by a blog with the title “Are Malls Dying? It’s Complicated.”
Placer.ai’s recent white paper “Malls that are Rising to the Top” acknowledged that the indoor mall has faced, and continues to face, multiple challenges. By the same token, the white paper’s authors said that the “mall is dead” viewpoint focuses on malls solely as a place to shop. Instead, malls that are likely to survive are those that are considered “a modern incarnation of a bustling downtown shopping area, replete with shops, services and places to meet,” noted the report’s authors.
“Across different mall types, there is a growing understanding that the standard conception of what ‘belongs’ in a retail center is changing,” Placer.ai’s Vice President of Marketing Ethan Chernofsky told Connect CRE. “Malls of all types are recognizing that the standard orientation toward apparel and beauty can be shifted in a way that actually helps the remaining apparel retailers thrive, while creating a more holistic experience.”
Chernofsky pointed out that complementary experiential offerings provide an attractive draw; people coming for the entertainment could remain for the shopping. “Whether it be providing a different reason to visit a center or a reason to visit at a different time, this shift offers the potential to grow the pie for all tenants,” Chernofsky observed.
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