Has e-commerce killed the shopping mall?

Moderated by Rachel King | January 14, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: Does the increase in online shopping spell doom for this brick-and-mortar institution?

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow




Denise Amrich

Denise Amrich

Best Argument: No


Audience Favored: Yes (58%)

Closing Statements

Less time to shop

Jason Perlow

There is a sickness in brick and mortar retail, and we need to understand what is driving it. The economy as a whole and scarcity of disposable income is a contributor, but the economy also has side effects, such as causing people to work more hours and seek additional avenues of income.

It is also breaking up families that now have to face single parenting scenarios which make a planned mall excursion during normal business hours as well as on the nights and weekends that much more difficult. Fuel prices are also making people think twice about getting in the car and going to the Mall. All of these will increase retail vacancies and make e-commerce that much more attractive an alternative to traditional brick and mortar shopping.

Despite my largely telecommuter lifestyle, I still love to get out of the house. But my time has value, as it does to many people. Shopping is a necessity, but it is not necessarily an enjoyable activity at all times. That we all have less time to spend on tasks outside our revenue generation responsibilities and spend whatever we have left with our families (and our diversions) has no doubt impacted the bottom line of the shopping mall.

Let the marketplace decide...literally!

Denise Amrich

Jason, as always, makes some good arguments. But the fact is, while techie-type stores like Best Buy may well go the way of the Dodo and Circuit City, stores for regular people will still be in demand. From an economic draw to an instant gratification draw, to an interpersonal experience draw, to a peak experience draw, stores in their physicality provide real value to consumers that can't be replicated online.

But that doesn't mean all stores will win. The malls will morph. Store owners and operators need to adjust to a world where online commerce is a reality, and they'll need to be creative and modify their business models to coexist in a world filled with digital natives.

One thing to consider when thinking about this issue is that half the stuff we now shop for online didn't even exist back in the day when we did pretty much all our shopping in person. So maybe people will shop for their digital stuff in the e-commerce world, and their real stuff in the real world. The Internet will just keep making it easier and easier to spend more money, whether enticing folks to a physical store or an online marketplace.

Some retailers, like Apple, will win big. Others won't. Such has always been the way of retail. In the meantime, enjoy shopping for what you need, in the way that works best for you. Be sure to support the stores you love, and then relax and let the marketplace decide.

Evolution, not extinction

Rachel King

This is a difficult one for me to call considering I’m a big fan of online shopping, and I detest having to shop in person most of the time -- even for groceries.

Nevertheless, I’m giving the win to Denise on this one.

Jason certainly had plenty of excellent points (not to mention numbers) defending why shopping malls just aren’t what they used to be in the face of e-commerce trends over the last few years.

But to argue that shopping malls are going totally extinct across the entire country is too extreme. In this sense, I agree with Denise that shopping malls will need to change their business models (not to mention size down) in response to current commerce trends.

Denise also had a few great suggestions of how malls could go about this, pointing out the small businesses that could thrive in shopping centers as well as linking malls to hotels for business travelers looking for last-minute items and services all in one spot.

Overall, shopping malls still serve a purpose for those consumers looking to get their shopping and errands done all in one place immediately. There are plenty of retailers that also require a brick-and-mortar presence that fit in well with the American shopping mall culture, such as big box hardware stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

However, as many other products (i.e. clothing, toys, anything entertainment related) can be bought online easily (and usually for a lower price), definitely expect to see a lot of stores and brands disappear from malls -- in effect causing them to get smaller than we might be used to seeing.


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  • Big NO !

    The shopping mall has become kinda Disneyland for the poor ones and the young generation.
    But families do benefit as well from "the mall". It gives them a location to spend their spare time and have some fun. "The mall" is far from being a location just to buy goods. It provides entertainment to all its visitors in a way internet-shopping could never do.

    "The mall" has become a social necessity used by many for exactly that reason. Therefore it will stay for quite a while though it has to adept to customers/visitor desires.
    Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided

      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • Caps lock works.

        Caps lock works.


        Not everybody does. Some love it. Hey, guess what? We're not made on assembly lines. We all have our own tastes and preferences. It's a part of being human.
        Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
    • adept vs adapt

      I would say that the mall has its purpose, however her ein OKC the strip mall is booming, while the enclosed ones are losing out. We have lost three in the metro over the last several years. Even th enew Outlet mall is a hybrid--covered but not an indoor mall, basically a strip mall with stores facing each other over a walkway with parking around it similar to an enclosed mall.
      The mall merchants need to be more adept at adapting to the customer. At least one of the enclosed malls that closed, is repurposed as an office building, another may go that way as well.
      Crossroads Mall in South OKC is at the intersectionof two Interste highways and is hard to get in and out of, the neighborhood is more towards people with less money to spend, etc. the anchor stores moved out or went out of business (Montgomery Ward, for instance). JC Penny moved out of the mall to a suburban strip mall. I suspect that some of the reasons are the cost of the enclosed mall vs the cost of the strip mall location.
      The biggest convenience of the enclosed mall is the entertainment, food, and the fact that you are indoors. Unfortunately for most stores they don't cater to my needs as a 6'7" 300 lb man, You can't be BIG AND TALL, just big OR tall. I have to go online to buy my clothes as they rarely are available in store, even if it is the same store, it doesn't help the brick and mortar store, just the company.
      Even non-mall stores such as CompUSA go out of business and become online only (now just Tiger Direct (after being bought by them). Montgomery Ward, and other stores have become online only, still only a shell of what they used to be.
      Electronics, tools, etc. can be bought online, but clothing is harder, just because it says it is the right size doesn't mean it will fit. (side subject, I guess) We need all types as someone else said, they cater to different mind sets.
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
  • Some impact perhaps; killed, no

    Online shopping has been around for many years now. Malls have been hit hard primarily due to the economy recently, not so much from online shopping taking over. Sure, there's been some increase in online shopping. But people visit malls to touch and feel the product, maybe get some food and drink while they're wandering around, to see others, and to be seen. My 20+ year old kids go because their friends go. They might not even intend to buy anything initially but just to look. Then they end up buying.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for No
    • and before the on-line shopping

      there were catalogs and HSN.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • Yes..but

        Catalogs and HSN/QVC were around "before" the Internet. However, shipping was a bigger issue. These organizations were "too small" to create the effect on USPS, FedEx, and UPS that Internet sales has generated. Plus, many of the catalog stores and HSN/QVC didn't have the brick and mortar presence that many of the "new" online stores do. And often carried product lines that you couldn't "test" before you bought. Therefore you had no idea what the quality was until you received it.

        I would venture to say the only brick and mortar stores that will survive will be the ones that have shifted to an online presence.
        Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
  • Malls are not dead

    There are going to be less malls, and their heyday is over, but they will not go away. It is much like tablets will not kill the PC, but they will certainly cut into that market.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for No
    • pc's and malls will go down

      Phones are getting more and more powerful, I hardly ever use a pc now, do just about everything on my phone, just bought a new note2 and now I'm doing even more on the phone, of course I don't have a choice cos my pc is broken but I'm in no hurry to replace it. Malls will die because foot traffic is not the same as sales, of course once 3d imaging becomes the norm even the foot traffic will disappear as folk won't be going to the mall to compare the feel of products and then going home to buy online, at the and of the day it about overheads and choice and online has lower overheads and much more choice
      richard in norway
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • The malls will change back to the days of strip shopping centers

    Although the gigantic malls will offer and experience more than just shopping (Mall of America) the local large malls will change. They will go back to strip shopping centers. Places where you park the car closest to the store you need, go into the store buy the item and leave. There are things such as shoes, clothing and some computer related items that people will still want to see in person.

    The internet is part of the death of the middle class. When you can have one aggregate doing the job that once tool 100 people, it will have an effect on labor capital. You can move an entire plant to China and pay people minimal wages to produce an often cheaper quality but greater quantity. This all benefits a certain sector and is probably the reason Rolls Royce is doing a banner business. I have no idea what the future holds for jobs but there will be less of them.
    Reply 3 Votes I'm Undecided