Best Argument: No
Audience Favored: Yes (58%)
Death marchLast year, in a previous Great Debate, I proposed that online sales within 10 years would devastate the balance of brick and mortar retail, citing the huge increase in online sales during the 2011 holiday season as a catalyst for continuing growth.
The holiday shopping season of 2012 proved to be even more of a watershed event than 2011. A report released by ComScore at the end of December last year said that holiday shoppers spent nearly $38.7 billion online between November 1 and December 21 of 2012, a 16 percent increase over the same time period one year ago.
Not surprisingly, all of this is happening during a very fragile economy, because shoppers are much more easily able to find deals online than in brick and mortar, as well as take advantage of free shipping, thus eliminating the crowding and the hassle of dealing with large retail establishments.
And what is more of a hassle than going to a modern shopping mall, which are located in extremely dense urban and suburban areas of the country, where there are also increasingly stressed and overworked Americans who are overextended on hours trying to make ends meet and to care for their families?
Why should they take up their valuable time sitting in traffic to get to the malls and to shop, when they could simply be doing it from the comfort of their own homes, or during lunch breaks on their own smartphones and tablet devices?
An entire website has now been devoted to "Dead Malls", ones which started out losing major anchor department stores, and then primary retail spaces until even the secondary stores could not survive on their own.
Recent figures indicate that retail space in over 200 shopping malls across the United States are suffering 35 percent vacancy rates or higher. Not surprisingly, the largest retailers in the country are also the ones with the largest amount of mall exposure as well, and are seeing their sales decline significantly as a result of this overall slowdown in mall shopping.
What's killing the malls? It's a combination of a weak economy, the increasing consumer preference for shopping online, and the high cost to retailers of having to rent retail space in a large shopping mall with ever declining foot traffic.
This is a trend that I personally don't see reversing anytime soon.
If the mall is dead, its customers sure don't know itWhen I was on my way to the strip mall I frequent, at close to store closing time on Black Friday, I passed the local mega mall. There was hardly an open parking space to be seen!
It may be true that sometimes, for certain types of things (electronics come to mind), shopping can be better online. Certain types of shops have been hit hard by new shopping trends. Business models may need to change. Different types of stores may have a better chance for success. But the mall will never die.
Where else can I meet friend for lunch and a movie, try on shoes at three different stores, drop off my best loved pair at the shoemaker for some TLC, hit the salon for a mani-pedi, and grab a smoothie on the way home -- all in one shot and without struggling with more than one door?
All you need is a decent anchor store or two, and smaller shops, specialty shops, even the proverbial mom and pop shop, have a chance to win customers they might otherwise have never seen.
The mall will never die.