Could the Shopping Mall Make a Comeback?

mean girls at the mall

As online retail continues to take over the consumer landscape, what’s to become of the American mall?

Malls represent more than just brick-and-mortar shopping — if we’ve learned anything from the movies, it’s that malls are a cultural experience (it’s easy to sneer at it now, but remember how life-saving the mall was when you were 15?).  But loitering teens don’t necessarily shop or generate revenue. And as more shoppers move online and the recession persists, malls face an unclear — but not completely dire — future. Here are a few stats to give a picture of the state of malls:

  • During the first quarter of 2011, overall mall vacancies hit their highest level (9.1%) in the past 11 years.
  • But the news wasn’t all bad — top-tier malls (which sell more luxury goods) actually saw vacancies drop to 7% or lower.
  • Investments in regional malls were some of the highest in the overall real estate investment trusts market in 2010 — and they made money, with total returns at about 28%.
  • The redevelopment of existing malls increased mall productivity to $469 per square foot (the first increase since 2007).

So malls are still drawing teens, and ultra-luxury shoppers. But without the rest of us, can they really hope to survive? We’re hopeful (for nostalgia’s sake, and the sake of our own potential children) — but we’re not holding our breath.

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