Over the past year we have seen the decline of many Malls both big and small. Malls.com stated in June that some analysts are expecting more than Spectrum Metro nationwide to close sometime over the next year and The Wall Street Journal has posted several articles on how Malls have been hit hard by our recent economic woes. So it makes you wonder what will be the end result. I know in my own local Mall the Boise Town Square that many shops have closed down over the past year and when you walk through it you notice the absence of the large crowds. With all these reports and things going on I have a few suggestions that could make a difference for some of these doomed or at least struggling Malls around the country.
First of all Malls should be a destination of choice. They have to attract people not just to shop but to entertain them. I am going to use my experiences in some other countries and what they have done in their malls to illustrate this point. I know that for a fact the Malls in Asia are packed with things that make people want to go to them. How do they do this? Well first of all the Malls are packed full of food. Fast food, small cafes, fancy restaurants, and of course the ever present food court. This makes the Mall I place of choice to go eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. Here in my home town the Boise Town Square mall has 1 restaurant inside it and a small food court with a few snack shops here and there. All the other restaurants are outside of the mall in the surrounding blocks. Even then there are not that many.
Another thing that Malls need is entertainment. Something for the family to do or the group of friends that you are with to have an exciting time. I have seen huge Theaters of varying styles, Bowling alleys, Ice rinks, pool halls, and even carnival rides in almost every mall I have visited throughout Asia. Another huge crowd attractor is the many and varied arcades that you will find in Malls. Last of all you have your shopping that will allow you to leave with armloads of bags. One good quality of these malls is that while they still have the high end shops they have a lot of cheap bargain style shops like what you might find at Factory Outlet. All of these things draw a ton of people and make the Malls a destination of choice!
Second; All these Malls have another addition that draws in the crowds. A complete and full service department and grocery store. Of course we have things like Sears and JCPenny which are great but by including a store like lets say a Walmart you gain an added group that comes to the mall. It can be very handy to get all your entertainment taken care of and then also before you lease pick up those much needed items from the grocery department before you leave instead of driving to another location on the way home. I am sure some of this sounds cool to you and some of it a little strange. Just remember the goal here is to create a place that people want to go to get things done but also have a great time!
All in all there will always be Malls even if some of them do close or even downsize. I would really enjoy having everything in one place though. Which is what malls were designed to do in the first place. I think the nostalgia of the Mall has worn off and been replaced by the outlets and strip malls and shopping centers where you have tons of traffic and sprawling parking lots with stores spread all over. If we get out Mall developers and owners to make the change from the basic shops and a food court style mall to more of an entertainment destination then they would see us the humble consumer return to their open walkways and grand halls. No matter what I am sure they can do better. So get out there, make some contacts and let the Mall world know what you want in your local Mall! Happy shopping everyone!