The divide between “bad malls” and “top-tier malls” is widening, as major retail real estate groups like Simon, Westfield and General Growth Properties pour money into revamping existing malls that are catering to customers in high-traffic locations. In effect, industry soothsayers are backpedaling: The bad mall is dead, sure, but otherwise, malls are transforming with the times.
Today’s high-performing malls have a few traits in common. They’re more diversified to include destinations beyond the typical department store, like theaters, restaurants, fitness centers and grocery stores. Elsewhere, online retailers and speciality stores and services are moving into the mall layout, replacing antiquated brands. Throughout mall corridors and in stores, technology, like digital navigation and mobile checkout, is becoming increasingly necessary to make a trip to the mall more streamlined for time-starved shoppers.
In a report from Fung Global Retail and Technology, managing director Deborah Weinswig described what’s happening to the shopping mall in America as “retail Darwinism.” There is currently an over-saturation of malls, and the likes of Amazon and e-commerce in general, is weeding out the weakest properties. The shopping centers that are rising to the top are those managed by retail developers like Westfield, who are bringing them into the 21st century. “We used to think technology was a threat, but it’s actually an advantage,” Westfield U.S. co-CEO Steven Lowy tells Glossy. “Malls have shifted to become more exciting places to be by focusing on technology. Instead of competition, we encourage collaboration. If we provide a better overall experience, people will do more business.”