RIP Malls


In January, Rick Caruso, the C.E.O. of Caruso Affiliated, one of the largest privately held American real-estate companies, stood on a stage at the Javits Center, in New York, and forecast the demise of the traditional mall. “Within ten to fifteen years, the typical U.S. mall, unless it is completely reinvented, will be a historical anachronism—a sixty-year aberration that no longer meets the public’s needs, the retailers’ needs, or the community’s needs,” he told his audience, which had gathered for the National Retail Federation’s annual convention.

Malls are dying, or so claim certain real estate barons quoted on the New Yorker’s Currency blog this week. Whether he’s right or not, I am nostalgic already.

And while people like Rick Caruso may have a vested interest in getting big box stores to buy into his ideas about revitalizing what we think of as the American mall, or what developers call “the classic greybox”, as outdoor malls (the sunshine! the Wi-Fi!) are his business. But there are other, realer signs as well, which Amy Merrick outlines in her piece.

1. Sbarro filed for bankruptcy for the second time in three years this week, citing an “unprecedented decline in mall traffic.”
2. The Gap is like, Hmm maybe Asia?
3. People are choosing to shop online rather than go to the mall, because malls are generally horrible places unless you are an evil teen or have no other options. “Internet sales reached six per cent of total retail spending in the fourth quarter of 2013, nearly doubling their share from 2006.” No real surprise there.

“These indoor malls in the middle of nowhere, which typically supplanted the old Main Street—that’s where it’s an anachronism,” Rick Caruso told me. But he still sees a place for malls elsewhere; after all, people have always needed gathering places, from the Lascaux caves, in France, with their Paleolithic paintings, to the modern-day souks of Marrakech. “Humans have an innate sense of wanting to come together,” he said. “I bet the souk will be there long after Amazon.”

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17 Comments / Post A Comment

andnowlights (#2,902)

I really hope this isn’t true. I still do 90% of my shopping in physical retail stores. The only time I shop online really is for Christmas when the mall is PACKED and I don’t want to deal with all those people!

Marissa (#467)

What will become of the teens? They can’t hang out at Amazon.com!

sherlock (#3,599)

Does it make me a snob if I hate shopping in malls, but love shopping in the downtown shopping districts in cities? I think that they somehow feel very different to me, but the only differences I can really think of are pretty elitist/classist if I am being honest. I guess my association with malls tend to be that they are tacky and suburban, whereas shopping on say, Michigan avenue in Chicago or (to a lesser extent Georgetown/M street in DC)has a very different feel to it, even if the retail locations themselves aren’t that different.

AitchBee (#3,001)

@sherlock This made me think of Mich Ave, too–how it’s more or less just a mall where you’re subjected to brutal weather as you walk between stores, but feels much less grimly homogeneous than the suburban mall of my youth.

RiffRandell (#4,774)

@sherlock I feel the same way. To me shopping at a J Crew (say in Georgetown) on the street is better than the same thing at the mall. My love of free parking aside, I really hate walking past the attack kiosks. No, I do not want your hair straightener/ acne products/ nail buffers LEAVE ME BE

Stina (#686)

@RiffRandell “attack kiosks” I love this. So perfect, I probably put in a bit of extra mileage walking in my efforts to avoid them.

rhinoceranita (#5,858)

Over my dead body. I will definitely check out something online, look at coupon codes, check if the product is available in store, and then drive to that physical location to buy it. I won’t even order and do an in-store pick up. I almost always skip that step.

/someone who suffers from the need for instant gratification

Stina (#686)

@rhinoceranita Ab-sofrigginlutely. And how are you supposed to tell if said shoe/dress/pant/whatever is right for you unless you can touch it/see it on you? I know you can return things but *scoffs* that is work. Shopping can be fun.

readyornot (#816)

The mall is dead, long live the mall. I hate malls. I also hate engineered outdoor malls, if what that means is places like the Grove in LA or the Clarendon stop of the DC metro. So plasticky.

But I’m really commenting to say: in featured image, wasn’t Cher shopping at a bunch of boutiques on Rodeo Drive? That’s a totally different thing, more akin to like Madison Avenue in New York, and I think for aspirational reasons those high-end places with beautiful window displays will persist for a long time.

erinep (#4,236)

@readyornot She was shopping on Rodeo Drive or something similar! but remember when she and Tai and Christian were at the mall and the guys dangled Tai over the edge of the railing? Malls are the worst.

questingbeast (#2,409)

@readyornot ‘I have direction.’ ‘Yeah, towards the mall.’

Meaghano (#529)

@questingbeast Hah yes, I could not find a screenshot of the actual mall scene so I settled for this shopping bag shot. #worstblogger

erinep (#4,236)

Call me double my age, but I hate the bad music, the stench of hollister or whatever the store of the moment is piping out into the mall, people trying to aggressively sell you random crap like hair straighteners from kiosks, and over priced stuff that doesn’t come in anything over a size 14 for women. Oh and the teenagers. /endrant

ceereelyo (#3,552)

I’m such a mall kid. My parents, usually after church would drive us to the mall so we could have lunch, walk around, and possibly shop at the sam goody or kay-bee toy stores. Yes, it was suburban NJ. I worked at the mall, went to the mall with friends (pre driving it was the #11 to Willowbrook on NJ Transit bus). I think it had to do with my parent’s background too – in the Philippines, there are market areas, but their shopping malls (I believe its similar in other Asian countries) are the places to go.

Anyway, I really loathe going to the mall so when I do need/want to go do a bit of shopping I’m the person there at 10am when it opens or I go on a weekday night on my way home from work. It’s usually to get my free underwear from Victoria’s Secret. And mall chicken. Love my mall chicken. Or an Auntie Anne’s pretzel.

Stina (#686)

@ceereelyo Mall chicken IS amazing.

Heather F G (#6,074)

@ceereelyo Yes! I grew up in the ‘burbs of a midsize city and it was definitely our #1 treat, and I still haven’t really grown out of that. Whenever my fiance gets to go out of town to do something cool for his work (he’s in an art/academic field that involves free trips to Europe for things sometimes), I always make a trip to the mall as my special reward for being such a martyr, even if it’s just to get a bath bomb from Lush and to pet the animals at the Humane Society or SPCA, and of course a tall diet Coke and Auntie Anne’s.

Of course, I still like to go on Saturdays. We weren’t the most affluent when I was growing up and I envied the kids whose moms took them clothes shopping and/or gave them allowance and dropped them off at the mall on the weekends, so maybe this is my way of recreating that thing I wanted for myself.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

@Heather Funk@facebook @Stina – I feel like all my posts are about mall food, or at least the past two I’ve posted.

LUSH- they opened a Lush store in the mall closest to me in their efforts to class it up (joined by a Michael Kors, Sur La Table, Sephora, Godiva, etc). Love their bath bombs. Sephora and Sur La Table (cooking store) are the only stores worth going to the mall for – so many things to look at! and touch!

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