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The Future Of America's Malls

A view of the Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, New Jersey from Macy's
wikipedia commons: User:Dough4872
A view of the Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, New Jersey from Macy's

The future of the American shopping mall is uncertain, as brick and mortar retail faces competition from online shopping. As shopping malls try to reinvent themselves, some consumers believe nothing can be done to stop their ultimate demise.

America is changing rapidly, and so is the way American consumers do their shopping. For many, walking around a mall has been replaced by online shopping.

In February, 2017, Macy’s contracted CBRE Inc. Real Estate to sell 32 locations in 20 states, many of which were in shopping malls. Toys R Us and JCPenney are among other brick and mortar retail chains struggling to survive, this all according to MassLive.com.

In the past, malls relied on these so-called anchor stores. Now that they are closing their doors, the American shopping mall is in jeopardy.

Speaking with people in Holyoke, Massachusetts, home to the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside, sentiments about the future of the area shopping mall are bleak. Rickie Fryer is a lifelong resident of Springfield, about 10 miles south of Holyoke.

“I’ve shopped at both malls, Eastfield Mall which is in Springfield, and Holyoke Mall, and I’ve seen a rapid decline in the stores and population and customers in the Eastfield Mall, due to the online shopping,” Fryer said.

But Fryer says shopping mall owners are partly to blame.

“They do not allow minors inside the mall at a certain time of the day,” he said. “What they fail to realize is it is the minors that are really spending the money, when the adults are penny pinching, they are shopping online, they’re trying to cut corners and save a buck or two.”

According to Credit Suisse, a financial services company, 25 percent of U.S. shopping malls will close by 2022. That amounts to 275 shopping malls closing in the next four years.

“I do think malls are a thing of the past,” says Holyoke resident Susan Moriarty.

Moriarty says she used to frequent the local mall.

“I mostly online shop at this point,” she said. “I’m just better able to find what I’m looking for online, then in say the Holyoke Mall which has been… dying frankly, for years.”

Via|Port Rotterdam, a shopping mall located in Rotterdam, New York notes that online shopping has taken a toll on retailers. With empty storefronts to fill, the mall was forced to innovative.

“Our game plan to reinvent the mall was add in quality entertainment options for families and adults to enjoy,” said Alan Fanitzi, Public Relations and Marketing Director for Via|Port. “We started by building the 30,000 square foot family entertainment complex known as Via Entertainment. The facility features a bar, restaurant, arcade games, bowling alley and party spaces.”

Fanitzi’s statement went on to say that the Aquarium constructed in the mall has brought 200,000 more visitors annually. A former Macy’s in the mall now features office space for the New York State Tax and Finance Department. 

The push for an innovative use of empty mall space isn’t happening in Via|Port alone, but around the country. For example, shopping mall developer Pyramid plans to re-introduce a movie theater at the Holyoke Mall.

Ironically, as was proposed with Enfield Square in Enfield, Connecticut, they might even become large distribution centers or headquarters for online retailers like Amazon.

The Holyoke Mall at Ingleside, Eastfield Mall and Enfield Square were reached out to for this report, but were unavailable for comment, or declined to participate.

Kenneth Stratton of Southwick, Massachusetts, is a junior journalism major and political science minor, at Western New England University.

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