Creatively re-purposing shopping centres

(Photo: Damien Walmsley/flickr)

With lots of square footage and plenty of parking, shopping centers are rethinking ways to give their centralized locations new life.

In the US, the traditional concept of the mall is fading away.

Once an epicenter of the suburban lifestyle, the shopping mall’s purpose and importance have slowly been transforming. Specialty retail bankruptcies made shopping centers a less diverse and interesting experience. Anchor department stores filing Chapter 11s, though, has lead to destabilizing and upending entire shopping complexes.

“The overextension of many mall tenants and their need to rightsize was noticeable long before the pandemic,” Placer.ai analysts wrote in a “Redefining the Mall” white paper. “That, along with a seemingly one-size-fits-all mall style that was copied and pasted across the country, led to the realization that the reach of the classic anchor department store was limited and that new types of tenants must enter into the mix to augment that role.”

Then the pandemic sped everything up. E-commerce reached new heights, while mall traffic plummeted as consumers stayed inside to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

“The ‘fall of the mall’ and ‘retail apocalypse’ have been buzz phrases littering businesses and consumer news sites for years now, but the pandemic seems to be the final nail in the coffin for the traditional mall,” said Brett Rose, founder and CEO of United National Consumer Suppliers, in emailed comments. “While anchor department stores and other major retailers shuttered or filed bankruptcy, the influx of vacancies has made the cost of maintaining malls unsustainable. The only solution for REITs is to get creative in repurposing the space.”

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