Despite Anchor Store Closures, Malls Can Secure Success With Dining, Experiences, Entertainment

Retail TouchPoints – As many as 30% of malls will need to close due to the oversaturation of shopping centers in the U.S., estimates Coresight Research. But the need to reduce significant square footage isn’t all bad news. While more than 1,100 department stores are set to close between 2018 and 2023, mall operators can secure future success by:

  • Focusing on potential “anchor” replacements, but not in the form of large format stores;
  • Prioritizing high-end dining and experiences to cater to future generations of shoppers; and
  • Embracing the concepts of “destination centers” and “retaildential” complexes.

While it’s true that many malls are suffering and may close, others are finding new ways to attract more shoppers. Malls range in grades, from A++ to D. High-performing Class A malls constitute only 20% of the market, yet represent 72% of total mall sales, according to data from Green Street Advisors. These “A” malls have experienced double-digit sales growth since 2012, Coresight reported.

Within “A” malls, occupancies remain in the high 90% range, said Michael Brown, a partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney, and author of the report The Future of Shopping Centers. For the most part, those malls will be safe from the expected 30% of malls anticipated to close. But with so many department store closures on the horizon, there will still be spaces opening up, even at some of the top-performing malls.

“Most of the retailers we see that are anchors — and I literally mean anchors — they’re not driving traffic and they’re holding down the mall,” said Ken Morris, Principal at Boston Retail Partners. “They didn’t pivot to online sales right away and were late to the game. Those are the people that are anchoring a lot of the failing malls, especially in the C and D class malls.”

Morris highlighted the Apple store as a retail environment that modern retailers should strive to copy in some ways, particularly if they desire attention from mall operators.

“There’s something for everyone [at the Apple store], regardless of if you’re six or seven years old, or 70 years old,” Morris said. “It’s an event. It’s theater, and the reality is that’s going to draw people all of the time.”

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