General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Indoor, enclosed malls have largely failed in the Midwest. Is that a nationwide trend as you see it, and why do you suppose?

Asked by ibstubro (18770points) February 9th, 2015

I shop in St. Louis Missouri and nearly all the big, enclosed, indoor malls have failed or are struggling. I don’t understand that. There are several new malls that have the same overall configuration (stores facing into a central courtyard), but are ope to the elements. What’s the point of that? You have to walk the same distance, but unprotected from rain, snow, cold and hot.

Is this a localized trend, or is it different in your area? I would think that the more extreme the climate (hot, cold rain, snow) the more essential indoor malls would be.

We have one mall locally, and it’s losing it’s JC Penny anchor that it’s not likely to replace. Possibly the death knell of the whole mall, and I don’t understand why.

Disclaimer: I’m not a retail shopper. This is a legitimate query.

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21 Answers

Jaxk's avatar

Brick and Mortar stores have been losing to the Internet for some years now. The big Anchor stores are losing to the Walmarts and Targets. And as if that weren’t enough. these are the most expensive stores to build and maintain. Consequently rents are higher and stores even less competitive. They seem to be a luxury we can no longer afford.

keobooks's avatar

I think the Internet is a factor in malls dying. Who wants to go out in the elements, park out in the boonies and wade through the crowds to get something that you can just point and click on to buy in the privacy of your own home?

@Jaxk beat me to it.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

For most people I think @Jaxk and @keobooks are right, I only use the net for items I can’t find at the brick and mortar stores, I prefer to touch and see the item before I buy it, and want to know who to yell at if I have to return it.
Not box it back up pay for shipping and hope for the best.

Strauss's avatar

I know the brick-and-mortar stores are diminishing due to on-line shopping, but I have also noticed a trend (especially in the Denver area) over the last 20 years or so. The “new” shopping centers seem to be the open-air types as opposed to the enclosed mall. It seems the food outlets have the advantage in these types of stores. In the typical enclosed mall, many, if not all of the restaurants are in a food court area, with common seating. In the newer model, each restaurant has its own seating, even though they seem to be in the same block or two of the development.

tinyfaery's avatar

Still plenty of malls here in L.A. I can’t think of any that have closed.

Where I live there are a few very upscale malls with stores like Coach, Guess and other stores I could never afford to buy from.

Stores like Target are stand alone stores here. Malls have big name retailers like Nordstrom and Macy’s.

I think LA likes its malls because there is actually a place to park. Good luck finding parking for Rodeo or 3rd street or any place not attached to a mall.

keobooks's avatar

I don’t feel any love lost on this one. I’ve always hated malls. I’m glad the rest of America is finally feeling my way about it.

Let’s all go like a herd into a crowded enclosed space that’s so noisy you can’t hear any conversation? No thanks!

jca's avatar

I live 10 minutes from a major mall, which is a very nice one with about 6 anchor stores plus a whole lot of other upscale smaller ones, several large restaurants plus a food court. There are other major malls in the vicinity which are all successful. I guess it’s the area I live in (middle to upper class). That said, the mall is someplace I go to hang out on occasion, meet friends and their kids for play dates or take the kids to Build-a-Bear or to the restaurants. I may do some shopping there but the bulk of my shopping is done either at Costco or Kohls or online on Amazon.

sahID's avatar

I am inclined to agree with @keobooks. Especially around Christmas, malls become overcrowded, retail store-oriented mosh pits that, in one key respect, are unsafe: purse snatchers and pick pockets can do their damage far easier in an enclosed, packed concourse than in a spread-out, open area.

In addition, I can see one compelling argument in favor of the open-air “village” type of shopping center from the perspective of a merchant. In an enclosed mall, it is unrealistic to expect shoppers to return to their cars with shopping bags in between store visits, thus increasing the risk of shoplifting.With a village-style center, that expectation is much more realistic.

So which style of shopping center do I prefer? The enclosed mall, especially in the winter.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Malls are awful. Everything about malls is just sad – the lighting, the crowds, the bad food, the generic selections, the music if there is any. If one has the choice between shopping online and shopping in a mall, why choose to shop in a mall?

Darth_Algar's avatar

Certainly brick-and-mortar stores have lost business to online retailers. But I also think the relative success of open-air malls vs enclosed malls reflects a general societal trend. Humans naturally crave wide open spaces and sunlight. It’s not good for humans to spend so much of their time enclosed and under artificial light. I think people are starting to realize that. Also many of the large old school retailers like J.C. Penny have struggled to adapt with the times.

JLeslie's avatar

When I go to the mall it’s usually full of people. The malls have been to in the last few tests are Wolfchase mall in Cordova, TN; town Centre in Boca Raton, FL; International Mall in Tampa, FL; and Countryside in Clearwater, FL.

You should know January is usually one if the slowest retail months, so don’t go by how the malls look in January as an indicator for how well mall stores are doing.

When I lived in Memphis I couldn’t believe how badly that metro area sucked at making outdoor malls. There was a fairly new one 40 minutes from me, and it was very pretty, but had the restaurants spread out at the ends, rather than all together towards the middle, and no al fresco seating. Even cities with much colder climates have restaurants with outdoor seating with at least some of the tables under cover. For some reason the middle of the country always disappoints me when it comes to traditional malls and outdoor malls. I know the developers must travel to places like West Palm Beach and Boca. I just don’t get it.

Adagio's avatar

Malls, in New Zealand anyway, are so generic, so generic! Give me a good old-fashioned high street any day of the week.

Haleth's avatar

What everyone else said above. A mall in my city was recently torn down and rebuilt as an open-air shopping center. It had a worn and dingy look, the design was dated, and it was always kind of dark inside. A lot of older malls have about as much ambiance as the DMV.

They’re also designed so you have to spend a lot of time inside them. You’re meant to park your car at one entrance and walk around from one store to another. If you have one single destination in mind, the layout makes it harder to get there. With the stores in a cluster in the center, and the parking spread around the outside, you might have to spend 10 minutes just walking to your destination. It’s inconvenient and annoying.

I know a couple people who do recreational shopping, but that’s only fun if you have a nice atmosphere and interesting stores to choose from. Nobody wants to hang out for a couple hours in a crappy mall and shop at Sears or JC Penny.

Successful brick-and-mortar businesses these days create an atmosphere that matches their product. (Home Depot is an example.) Ideally, it’s an atmosphere that makes you want to spend time there, instead of going online. Williams-Sonoma does a good job of selling a high-end image through its design. The stores are attractively laid out, with hardwood floors and bright incandescent lighting. None of this dingy tile and fluorescent business. The products have clean, retro-modern packaging. That sort of half rustic, half clean/ industrial look is popping up in all kinds of things associated with the upper middle class. Like, think of a lot of the modern restaurants that have opened in the last few years. They might have reclaimed barnwood tables, exposed brick walls from when the building was a factory, and sleek metal fixtures.

Since a lot of these open-air places are newly built, they usually have better stores and more appealing design. They also have the parking in the middle with all the stores spread along the perimeter. That means the storefronts have more surface area, and you don’t have to spend ten minutes walking through a garage and a mall. You can just park next to the thing you want.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am old enough to remember when the first shopping malls were built. At the time it seemed like a great idea, and then the idea of indoor shopping malls seemed even better. I can recall visiting shopping malls as destinations in themselves. Since then my view has changed. Shopping malls seem like such dreary unimaginative places. I wonder if others have experienced something similar. Maybe shopping malls were part of the spirit of the time and now that moment has passed. Online shopping is certainly part of it, but I feel that there may be more to it than that.

JLeslie's avatar

@Haleth Funny, the open air mall I criticized in my answer has almost all the parking in the middle, and I think it is a design flaw. It looks terrible and to get from one side of the shopping center to the other you have to cross a large parking lot.

In FL and even a couple of centers ice been to in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast have a “street” running through the two sides and some street parking, but then most of the parking is behind the stores in a lot or garage.

ibstubro's avatar

Good answers and great insight into what other places are doing.

What I don’t understand about the new malls being built in St. Louis is that they are on the model of the old, enclosed malls, but without the enclosure. You have to park on the outside perimeter, find and entrance, and wander inside endlessly until you find your store. The ‘village’ concept (which I know well from Osage Beach Missouri) and interior parking mall have yet to appear. In fact, the interior parking mall is what out local enclosed mall replaced.
Of course, there’s nothing to say that the new malls I’m describing will last. I predict that they will not. I have even predicted that one of the newest will fail before it ever reaches maximum occupancy.
I know that if I’m in an incoherent, feverish daze and have some crazed desire to visit, say, Spencer gifts, I appreciate it being in an enclosed mall if the weather is less than ideal.

Gabby101's avatar

I am originally from the Midwest and like you, am somewhat puzzled by the trend away from malls considering the weather is usually too hot or too cold.

I actually don’t think the problem is that malls are enclosed, but more that the majority of them are outdated and not configured for modern tastes. There is a relatively new shopping mall in downtown San Francisco that is crazy crowded on the weekends. It has upscale anchors and the food court has upscale “fast food” along with some of the more common chain restaurants. There are some really nice restaurants scattered throughout as well.

Nobody wants to go to the mall and eat Taco Bell and shop at JC Penney’s anymore. If you’re looking for a low cost experience you can head to Wal-Mart and eat at the Subway inside.

ibstubro's avatar

The crazy thing here in my small corner of the Midwest, @Gabby101, is that the local indoor mall never had a food court. The only food left is pretzels. But, still, it’s a good place to go if you’re shopping for clothes. I doubt places like The Buckle will relocate as stand-alone stores if the mall should close.

I know of a couple mall in St. Louis that seem to still be thriving…I’ll have to visit one.

jca's avatar

Two cool shopping places are Prudential Plaza in Boston, which is a series of enclosed walkways between buildings with stores, eateries and hotels along the way. Another cool place is the underground shopping in Montreal. Not sure what it’s called, if it’s technically a mall or a Boston-type of thing, but Boston and Montreal have similar weather – freezing from November to April, so they need shelter over their shopping, yet not in a mall configuration.

JLeslie's avatar

@Gabby101 Good point that stores like Walmart probably have had some significant impact on lower end malls. That makes perfect sense. I wonder if some of those malls turned an anchor store into a mega grocery if that would help the mall overall and do well itself. Come to think of it, the mall closest to me just added a Whole Foods on one end. That mall was already very busy. It’s a moderate level mall with Macy’s, Dillards, Sears, and I think JC Penneys, but I’m not sure about the last one. I don’t go to Whole Foods every week though. If the lower end malls are in more ethnic areas a store with a big international section could be amazing. Asian or Latin American groceries? Imagine it. Might even have an eat in area, or restaurant on one level. It could be food court style, and only allow “foreign” food, even if it is chain and franchise stuff. Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Indian. I think I just cake up with a great concept for the declining malls in the country. LOL. One of the great things about Walmart and SuperTarget is you can get your weekly grocery shopping done and pick up a pair of pajamas at the same time. Maybe they could reposition the malls, or the other option is renovate them for more upscale.

Darth_Algar's avatar

And not just what Walmart, Target, etc themselves offer, but also the fact that other business tend to attract to the area around them. We had a small mall on one side of town here did well for decades. Ever since the Walmart supercenter went up in the other end of town most of the shopping has went out that way (aside from the mom & pops around the center of town which, remarkably, seem to be doing ok). Now the only tenant in that old mall is the state aid office.

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