The Failure of the Shopping Mall

By Paige Duane

Hubs for entertainment, retail and socialization, malls were once the pinnacle of the shopping experience. Since the first mall opened its doors in 1956, malls have faithfully served communities as air conditioned havens for people to shop, meet up with friends, and dine at food courts. So what happened to these titans of convenience and consumerism?

The decline of American malls is not a new development. Profits for indoor shopping centers have been steadily dwindling since as early as 2008. Already, 1,150 malls have been shut down nationwide. However, recent studies say that malls are expected to face closure at an increasingly accelerated rate. According to an estimation at Insider, “roughly one-quarter of American malls will close down in the next three-to-five years”. This unprecedented rate of change means impending doom for countless businesses and jobs that rely on malls to operate. 

Numerous factors have had a hand in the failures of malls. Online shopping, rising maintenance costs, and increasing rent prices all led to them going out of business. However, when it comes to the rapidly approaching extinction, one culprit stands out from the rest: COVID 19. 

In the midst of a global pandemic, indoor shopping centers struggled to avoid closure.  Social distancing and supply shortages made it difficult for malls to operate during the virus’ reign. Despite taking measures to limit exposure, many remained wary of malls and attendance hit an all time low. This lack of customers drove many former mall staples such as JC Penny’s, Neiman Marcus, and Sears to file for bankruptcy.

However, the fate of malls is not yet sealed. Much needed efforts to revitalize malls have already begun. Locations such as Tyson’s Galleria in Washington DC are replacing empty storefronts with new attractions. Construction has begun on gyms, bowling alleys, and even roller coasters. These new features have increased foot traffic within malls and have brought new life to the shopping centers. With any luck, malls will be restored to their former glory and once again be successful centers for business.

 1 “Retail Apocalypse Will Result in Another 80,000 Stores Closing by ….” 6 Apr. 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/retail-apocalypse-means-80000-store-closures-next-5-years-2021-4. Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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