Rumors Of The Mall’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated. Just Look At Miami!

Rumors Of The Mall’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated. Just Look At Miami!

by Paula Rosenblum

For the past ten months, we have been browbeaten with stories about the “Retail Apocalypse” in all its variations. One variant cites “the death of malls.”

As recently as December 12, CNN Money, usually a reliable source, published this bit of click bait: “America’s Malls Are Rotting Away.”  Subtitle? “The worst is yet to come for America’s shopping malls.”   We clearly didn’t get the memo in Miami, and many other cities also report revitalized malls.  In fact, in the month of November, U.S. retail brick and mortar sales were up 4% year-over-year…a healthy increase.  I suspect the final holiday season numbers will be even higher.

But that begs the question: what is a healthy mall supposed to look like?  What is the mall operator’s responsibility, and what’s the responsibility of the retailers?

Quite simply, it is up to the mall operator to draw foot traffic into the mall, and give retailers within it an opportunity to take advantage of that foot traffic. How they bring in that foot traffic is generally up to them. Over the past decade or two, mall operators have become dependent on “anchor stores,” typically department stores, to drive that foot traffic. That worked well when department stores were the “best” retail draw, but department stores are one retail sector that really does have some troubles in front of it (despite having a very good holiday season in 2017).

What happens to a mall when department stores don’t draw traffic? Quite simply, mall operators have to find different ways to engage consumers.

In today’s environment, that means “experience.”  Not food courts, but food halls, which are the next big thing.  Not just piano music, but real attractions. And that brings me to the Miami story.

Aventura Mall is already (according to Wikipedia) the second largest mall in the country, even besting Minneapolis’s Mall of America.  Having seen both, this is a little hard to believe, but I’ll accept it. Previously, it was the third largest mall in the country. The mall has recently completed the first phase of an eventual 315,000 square foot expansion: the installation of a 93 foot high slide at the entry to the mall. Reports from my not-teenaged friends are that the slide is a blast.




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