Will the Internet Kill the Mall Star?

Believe it or not, Sears used to be the largest retailer in the world. Now you would be hard pressed to find anyone under 23 who has heard of it.

The financial decline of Sears, which at one point accounted for 1% of the entire US economy, was in many ways a sign of things to come. The popular branded stores I grew up in (Kohl’s, Macy’s, etc.) are all struggling to keep afloat as the online shopping industry continues to grow. And as these retailers begin to disappear, so do the shopping centers that housed them.

Real estate analytics firm Green Street estimates that in the 1,000 malls it tracks across the country, there are nearly 750 vacant stores that once housed chain stores, according to the New York Times. The inability to fill these anchor boxes has sent many shopping centers into a financial spiral: in recent years, more than 1,000 shopping centers have closed completely. One research agency estimates that another 1,000 malls will close in the next three to five years.

For those of us who grew up visiting our local malls, this is a tragedy much like the plight of movie theaters. But if I’m being honest, I can’t remember the last time I set foot in a mall. My shopping habits, like many other people’s, have shifted to the internet. And as any good shopaholic will tell you, once you start shopping online, it’s almost impossible to stop.

But a return to personal shopping is one of the few ways to save the malls that are on their last legs. Other solutions have been suggested but none have really worked. For example, just a few years ago, Amazon began converting some of the closed department stores Sears and JC Penney into fulfillment centers. The retail giant even entered into talks with Simon Property Group, the nation’s largest mall owner, to buy up space across the country. But so far, Amazon has only successfully converted about 25 malls, largely because the repurposing process that this conversion requires is so long and tedious that it often turns out to be more trouble than it’s worth.

Of course, the mall is not extinct yet. Ritzy malls with expensive stores and fashion houses will be around for a long time because they can afford it. I wonder how many people said that about Sears.

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Keywords: Retail, internet, Shop, Coronavirus

Original author: Kaylee McGhee White

Original location: Will the Internet Kill the Mall Star?

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