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National  + Weekender  | 

The Second Coming of Malls

Ethan Chernofsky

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.”

Tenant shifts are one thing. There are also the experiential add-ons. The Placer.ai report provides such examples, like the August 2021 opening of a lower-level, 80,000-square-foot Hollywood Casino York in York, PA’s York Galleria Mall. The casino proved to be a huge draw. Visits to the location jumped 31.4% within a year.

Meanwhile, Santa Ana, CA’s MainPlace Mall has built in both an omnichannel shopping experience and an American Ninja Warrior Adventure Park. While the omnichannel experience increased the amount of shopping, the park boosted both monthly visits and the share of loyal visits.

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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Inside The Story

Placer.ai's Ethan ChernofskyPlacer.ai

About Amy Wolff Sorter

I love content. I love writing it, visualizing it, and manipulating it to fit into different formats. I have years of experience in working with content, both as creator and editor. The content I create and edit provides assistance with many goals, ranging from lead generation, to developing street cred through well-timed thought-leadership pieces. Content skills include, but aren't limited to, articles and blogs, e-mails, promotional collateral, infographics, e-books and white papers, website copy and more.

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