Malls Disrupted: New US Shopping Malls Demolish 1950 Shopping Concept

Internet Is Supply-and-Demand Shopping, Malls Are About Discovery

Malls Disrupted: New US Shopping Malls Demolish 1950 Shopping Concept
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DNR (Demolish and Rebuild and/or Do Not Resuscitate) is the name of the game for U.S. shopping malls in 2015.  Without tenants or shoppers, yesterday's malls have no retail relevance for tomorrow and are disappearing under the weight of wrecking balls and cranes across America in stunning numbers.  What has happened to America's love affair with shopping malls?  

What happened was the Internet.  The Internet is the great shopping mall disruptor.

 Without asking permission, the Internet has laid claim to the supply-and-demand part of the retail formula.  If brick-and-mortar shopping malls are no longer necessary to supply consumer demand, what part of the retail equation does the "average" mall have to offer the "average" retail mall consumer?

Referring to a 2015 Wharton/Verde study, the answer lies in the first mall shopping attribute that researchers identified was important to today's consumer.  That is "discovery."  Research participants revealed that when they find something new and exciting to discover during their mall visit, they are more likely to shop longer, spend more money, and return in the future.  

So, in order for physical malls to maintain or regain retail relevance, they have to give consumers something to "discover."  It's not that middle class retailers in middle class malls are victims of the shrinking middle class demographic, it's that middle-of-the-road products, services, and customer experiences are uninspiring, disengaging, and just plain boring.

 Consumers can have more retail discovery on their mobile phones while waiting for their chiropractor than they can at the "average" 1950 concept mall.

The dying and dead malls of America didn't lack customers.  They lacked vision.   Consumers don't want malls to die.  Consumers are just dying for malls to give them something worth discovering.


The good news is that new mall owners with a new mall vision are not afraid to completely demolish the failing 50s-concept malls in order to create an entirely different experience for consumers.  Here's some examples from a list of the most recent American malls to have entered some type of DNR process:

  • Bellevue Center Mall

Bellevue, TN
1 million square feet of retail space
Closed 2008
Demolition - August 22, 2015
To be replaced by a $200 million retail / restaurant / entertainment complex, 330 residential units, 120-room hotel, professional offices and medical space
Reopening scheduled for November, 2017

  • Fairfield Commons Mall

Richmond, VA
Demolition - August 13, 2015
To be replaced by a 310,000 shopping center complex which will includes a Walmart Supercenter, barber shop, hair salon, and restaurants
Reopening scheduled for Fall, 2016

  • Gallery Mall

Philadelphia, PA
To close for $325 million renovations in September, 2015
Interior demolition scheduled to begin September 2015
To be replaced/reopened as Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia
Re-opening scheduled for Spring, 2017

  • Jefferson Valley Mall

Jefferson Valley, NY
Partial demolition and $60 million renovations began August 14, 2015, including construction of a new Dick’s Sporting Goods Anchor Store, scheduled to open in Spring, 2017

  • Ridge Road Strip Mall

Ashwaubenon, WI
Demolition - August 10, 2015
Owned by the Green Bay Packers
To be replaced by a “new commercial development”

  • River Drive Mall

Laredo, TX
385,000 sq. ft. of retail space
Closed 2003
Demolition - August 13, 2015
To be replaced by an outlet mall, The Outlet Shoppes of Laredo 
Re-opening scheduled for Fall, 2016

  • White Flint Mall

Bethesda, MD
Closed January, 2015 (except for Lord & Taylor)
Demolition began July 8, 2015
Redevelopment plans include 5 million sq. ft. of retail space, and a 45-acre mixed use complex including 500 apartments, a 20-story hotel.  Court battle with Lord & Taylor (still operating despite demolition) awarded $31 million to the department store, which threatens the project plans

Much like some of the largest U.S. retail chains that lack retail relevance have been declaring bankruptcy and going out of business in 2015, so shopping malls that lack vision and a sense of discovery will continue to close.

 And while those failing malls are busy making excuses, shopping centers like the Mall of America will be busy redefining the mall concept and expanding.

By the way, many believe that the Mall of America is the largest mall in the U.S. already.  It has been the biggest, but not the largest.  As soon as its Phase II opens it will be both... for a little while.  That is, until the proposed four million square-foot American Dream Mall opens in Miami.  

The loss of "largest" status won't be as upsetting to the Mall of America as one might assume, however, since both mega mall complexes will be owned by the same mega mall development company.

More about how the Mall of America is Re-Redefining the shopping mall experience in 2015 >>