Reinventing the regional mall

Lots of commentary at today’s RetailWire about regional malls, and efforts nationwide to breathe some life into them. My contention is that the “reinvention” is long overdue, considering the slow decline of the traditional department store mall anchor:

There are several key trends driving the decline of the regional mall: First, retail consolidation in the traditional department store segment means there are simply fewer tenants to occupy all of the “anchor” space without subdividing it. Second, the department store segment overall continues its long-term share decline…whether you’re talking about “super-regionals” like Dillards or mid-tier merchants like Sears. Third, the growth of value-oriented and aspirational concepts over the past 20 years (power centers, lifestyle centers, etc.) has made it harder to sustain interest in the “one-stop shopping model” of a regional mall. Finally, many regionals were built during the 70’s and 80’s in inner-ring suburbs that are now miles away from most cities’ population growth.

So mall developers simply have no choice but to reinvent themselves with new tenant mixes. The best thing they can do to ensure a viable future is to imitate other successful concepts…through the addition of dining, entertainment and off-price retailers (including discounters and “big boxes”). Simply hoping for the rebound of the traditional mall anchor — because they used to be the biggest traffic draw at the mall — isn’t going to make it happen.


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