Since 2007, 400 malls in the U.S. have closed. Now comes the filing of bankruptcy protection from both Quiznos and Sbarro, and that’s after the partial demise of mall anchor tenants like JC Penney and Sears. From Yahoo Finance:
A decade ago there were more than 1,100 enclosed shopping malls in the U.S. Since then more than 400 have either been “re-purposed” or closed outright. No new malls have been completed since at least 2009.
Onetime mall devotees like Shoppist editor Emily Goulet are now mall escapees. Of the Oxford Valley Mall, she writes:
It's dirty. It's depressing. ...The quality of stores has gone down, way down... The stores that remain need a facelift, too. Dressing rooms are in desperate need of a paint job, racks are horrifically disorganized, and everyone just looks like they want to go home. Even the clothes, which sag limply from hangers and hang off the arms of chipped mannequins that look like they're from about 1987.
That's why when she goes now, for one item the mall carries, "I can be in and out in less than six minutes."
I know this because sometimes I make my husband idle in the car in front of the entrance so that it's more of a drive-by shop than an actual trip. We time it, and when I jump in the car I feel as if there must be zombies chasing me out the door.
From a real estate perspective, shoppers like Goulet -- who used to spend hours in a mall -- are a problem. But they also represent an opportunity.
In her piece "Can Wild Boar Save the Suburban Mall?," Philadelphia Magazine's Vicki Glembocki points to the latest outpost of Marc Vetri's Osteria -- in South Jersey's Moorestown Mall. Though the Vetri placement seems bizarre, it plays into a reality of mall economics right now: High-end malls are doing well. Very well.
Joseph Coradino, CEO of PREIT, which owns the Moorestown Mall (along with 35 others), knows his business, so while the traditional malls and the smaller malls are in decline, the industry as a whole is not. It's simply changing. As Glembocki points out, PREIT has rolled with the times:
PREIT got creative. Echelon became the “Voorhees Town Center,” with the township occupying the mall’s very vacant second floor and high-end apartments moving in next door. In Plymouth Meeting, PREIT wooed Whole Foods, P.F. Chang’s, and a surefire foot-traffic generator—a 23,500-square-foot outpatient facility run by Mercy Health. That plan worked so well, Exton Square just added the Main Line Health Center. Cherry Hill put on some fancy big-girl pants—Nordstrom, Henri Bendel, Crate and Barrel, Armani Exchange, Season 52, Capital Grille—and in the third quarter last year, an impressive $629 per square foot in sales followed. (A healthy mall does above $400. KOP historically pulls in an average of $700.)
Another part of Coradino's strategy: bringing visitors to the malls for experiences they can't have online.
In this case, that experience is savoring Osteria’s polenta budino, or seeing Garces’s wall decorated with luchadore masks, or getting a $145 haircut and blowout. (“You can’t get a haircut online,” Coradino notes.) And then, after your glycolic peel at Rizzieri, and after you grab an order of huarache de costillas for lunch at Distrito, and after you browse boutique row (because that’s coming next, right across from the spa—a strip of high-end local shops), then … hopefully … by the grace of God … you’ll wander out of the cool-kids wing and pick up some sneaks at Lady Foot Locker.
Why I Hate the Oxford Valley Mall [Shoppist]
Can Wild Boar Save the Suburban Mall? [Philadelphia Magazine]