Less time to shop
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!
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.