Spottlight on Shopping

Video Killed the Radio Star . . . but What Killed the Shopping Mall?

With less than one thousand shopping malls left in the United States, it’s fair to ask, who, or what, killed shopping malls? The 1950’s brought the population explosion to the suburbs, which welcomed the traditional shopping mall as a prosperous, indoor retail venue with rows of shops, including large “anchor” stores such as Sears and Macy’s, that would connect the smaller shops at each point. Shoppers would spend hours at the mall. But lately, the average time spent shopping is under an hour. In an effort to perpetuate prosperity, shopping malls have been morphing into what researchers call “lifestyle centers”.

So, what brought about this titanic shift in how and where we shop; and what brought on the demise of the traditional shopping mall? The answer is compound. Reasons such as a population shift away from the suburbs and back into the city is one major factor. The decrease of average income brought on by the recession is also to blame and led to discount chains occupying spaces where swanky shops once flourished. Another factor is a generation of “lazy” shoppers who want quick delivery without travel, easier returns, more greenspace. These shoppers also tend to spend more on leisure, experiences, upscale restaurants, and technology. The days of going to shopping centers to simply purchase clothes or shoes are dead and gone, because, frankly, there’s an Amazon for that.

In order to fulfill the needs of today’s buyers, developers and real estate gurus realized the importance of forward-thinking in their approach to revamping the “shopping mall”. With hundreds of large retailers downsizing or going out of business, suburbs across the nation are left with empty lots that need to be re-purposed and redeveloped to adhere to the needs of shoppers. One common theme is the recreation of the “Main Street” or  “downtown”, which the modern-day shopping mall pushed to extinction. This retroactive shift will see the repurposing of old retail centers into experiential “lifestyle” centers, where the public can live, eat, work, and play, while still being drawn in with some upscale and chain retail stores.

In addition to living space, recent trends show the re-use of old shopping centers for bowling alleys, event venues, grocery stores, small businesses, movie theaters and fitness centers. Even DMVs, libraries, and walk-in health clinics are appearing for public convenience. For example, what was once the Granite Run Mall in Delaware County, PA., has now transformed into the Granite Run Promenades with the help of The Martin Architectural Group. This mall’s eye-catching multi-use makeover includes luxury apartments adjacent to the center, while other sections were repurposed into an outdoor oasis of finer dining, movie theaters and upgraded shopping. This successful upgrade focused on appeasing shoppers’ experiential and lifestyle needs while welcoming greenspace.

Instead of saying “R.I.P.” to the traditional shopping mall, today’s customers might choose to look at it as more of a reincarnation of the old and outdated, into the new and purposeful