The fact that it’s impossible to perfectly predict where business and consumer action will go was driven home to me this week, when I read this CNN article about how malls aren’t really going away. Granted, I think we have all seen some of these spaces be completely closed (and possibly razed), so malls probably are not on the way to reclaiming the status they had a few decades ago, but their future appears to be brightening.
One thing I found interesting in the article is the effect of new retailers moving into this space. There were anchor retailers that were in many malls, so much so that there were certain stores that seemed guaranteed to every building, but now as some of that space opens up (think Bed, Bath & Beyond), there are varied businesses willing to take up this space, and that new presence can help the entire mall feel invigorated. And the owners of buildings can also charge more rent for those newly opened spaces, making everyone happy.
If malls were once monoliths that seemed much the same no matter where you went, maybe this is an indicator that a little more individual uniqueness can help renew interest in things that seemed old. After all, it’s not as if commerce is lessening.
One thing about that commerce, though, that has been largely tied in with the downfall of malls is how much of it has moved online. And obviously this is not going away and the way it has affected brick and mortar establishments cannot be overlooked. The CNN article, however, talks about certain retailers that are operating with strategies of having physical locations be part of a larger brand that mostly revolves around their digital presence. Malls give these businesses the opportunity to put these physical stores into already existing spaces.
A lot of what seems to be moving these existing malls incrementally forward is being new in that space and/or having new ideas on how to use that space. So really, it should not be surprising then that a lot of what is helping something that seemed like it was being aged out are new ways of thinking.
The lesson here is that there is success to be found when one doesn’t accept that the only possible answers are the already established answers. Is this a guarantee that malls will remain for the next few decades? Not necessarily, but there does seem to be enough evidence that says some new thinking is at least extending their life. So never be afraid of those new thoughts that you may have, even if the path before them is not always clear.
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