If you want to visit a ghost town, take a trip to your local shopping mall. I knew retail was in trouble, but I really didn’t understand the severity of the situation. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I stopped by the Fashion Show Mall on the strip. It was early Saturday night. This place is usually packed because it combines traditional boutiques plus the gaudy ones that Vegas is so well known for. It was really empty. Maybe I saw 15 people on each level. I thought it was unusual but didn’t focus on it.
Then I learned that approximately 15% of all U.S. malls will fail or be converted into non-retail space within the next 10 years. Green Street Advisors, a real estate and REIT analytics firm, just released that figure. It will probably get worse. Green Street Advisors thought that only 10 per cent of malls would fail less than two years ago.
The report never revealed the reason why shopping malls are doing so poorly, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. The economy coupled with the increase of people shopping online is killing the mall experience. It had to happen eventually. Rich or poor, Americans are looking for the best online deals. Even my friends over the age of 60, who wouldn’t use a computer a few years ago, now spend hours online looking for the best values
The biggest insult to retailers today is something called “show-rooming.” I am pretty sure I explained this to you before, but it is worth going over again. Today, more and more Americans will visit a store just to see and touch a product they are interested in. Once they’ve decided what they want, they go back to their computers to find the best possible price from a variety of discount e-commerce sites. Retailers hate this with a passion. They threaten manufacturers that if they sell to online discounters, they will not carry their brand. Some retailers insist on custom made models so customers can’t shop around. This is too costly for all sorts of manufacturers, so everyone continues to suffer.
I remember when going to a shopping mall was my big Saturday night out. This was long before the Internet. We would visit the Roosevelt Shopping Mall in Garden City, Long Island with great anticipation for what new stuff we would find. We spent hours there. It was our social life.
There are about 1,000 malls in the U.S. They say the lower-end ones are doing worse. Anchor stores like JCPenney, Macy’s, and Sears have all recently announced closures and layoffs. JCPenney is closing 33 stores, Macy’s is closing five, and Sears is closing its flagship in Chicago. Mall owners are going after movie theaters, restaurants, and discount retailers like TJ Maxx, Ross Stores, and Marshalls to take up the slack. Green Street Advisors think that community colleges, business offices, and health care facilities will take over the vast properties.
No one knows for sure. But if it eliminates all these random shooting sprees, I’m all for the change.