Let me describe my typical Saturday to you when I was growing up…
My brother and I would walk around the mall for HOURS.
We’d hit the arcade, then Mr. Bulky’s for some candy, browse the tapes and CDs at MusicLand, grab some grub in the food court, and then flip through magazines at the bookstore.
And of course, there was the people watching.
It was amazing!
And I miss those days…
What do you think it would take to make malls cool in America again?
Here’s what AskReddit users had to say.
1. The anchor stores.
“The anchor stores seemed to be the cause of a lot of failures — they lost their long-range focus by being too concerned over immediate results and ignored the changes in buying habits and customer expectations.
That’s why they aren’t necessary in a “modern mall” type atmosphere. Smaller stores continue to sell because they are brand specific. Granted the malls themselves would need to focus more on shorter leases in order to stay current as trends change.
Some brands, Victoria Secret for instance, have a much longer life span than a more trendy brand like Lucky Jeans or Abacrombie. Those seemed to come and go rather quickly. Can’t give a trendy store a 15 year lease, they won’t last that long.
I really believe some of the ideas on this thread would work. Some people have some great ideas that could easily bring indoor malls back in style. Even in an internet based world. But almost all of them center around the idea that you need to give people a reason to enter the mall first, and have shopping in the smaller stores almost a secondary focus.
It’s like when you look at how retail stores are set up. They put the faster selling items in the back and structure the store in such a way where you must pass slower moving items in order to get to what you came in for. The idea being you might be enticed to buy something you didn’t come in for.
Same reason they have “impulse items” at the cash registers. They know you are standing there waiting your turn, you will see these items and something will get your attention and you will buy it.
Use that same method inside the mall. Get them in, then force them to walk past a bunch of store that might draw their attention.”
2. New ideas needed.
There’s an independent mall nearby me that caters to our massive Latino population.
To say that they’re thriving is an understatement!”
3. Just might work.
“Imagine like Instagram photo booths at the mall.
Maybe kids could come and pay for high quality pictures and use of costumes, green screens, props, etc.
I bet something like that would be a total hit.”
4. Time to start over.
“You’d have to redo the concept entirely. I picture it as creating a sort of mix-use space and mini-downtown in suburbia sort of atmosphere that a lot of outdoor malls have been doing.
I think you would do that with low-cost condos that use on-site attractions as amenities. You’d have space to create a pool/gym area that would be part of a larger sports complex.
Indoor fields aren’t common in my area, and I think adding more could entice a lot of people. Even better if you have a 24/7 gym and fitness center with a pool. I’d also split up malls and create some green spaces with breezeways for when it rains.
With your built in clientele you could attract a couple corner stores, some retail shops, restaurants and bars. I’d ditch the old food court and make room for smaller restaurants, focused on trying to get fast casual dining that’s found in downtown areas more.
You could almost certainly attract the right people with a remodel and new concept of what a mall is.”
5. That would be great.
“Fill them with small, locally owned stores.
Have locally owned restaurants do the food court.”
6. Loved that place!
“Orange Julius stands.
Orange Julius was secretly the lifeblood of the American mall.”
7. I agree.
“Where I grew up they just put in an arcade and a bowling alley in our old mall.
I think things like that would help malls out.”
“I don’t think malls in their current state are salvageable. Some idea for something mall like:
Mixed use – live eat shop type areas. They’re already popping up all over the place. Just adjust one of them to have a central area for the “mall section”
Focus on local – make the rent low enough where local businesses can set up shop. Then you have a selling point beyond hey look the same 10 dying chains like every mall currently has
Make it an event hub – concerts in the park area, have some bars and restaurants around them, host in person events like board game nights, or trivia or what have you.
Stop trying to compete with online or Amazon. Focus on the experience and offer a sense of community instead.”
“Since Amazon is talking about putting their stores where Sears has fallen out, this will probably make malls “cool again”.”
10. A novel idea.
“Convert a portion of them into housing. I think it’s be really cool to live inside a mall.
Lots of malls and other retail buildings sitting empty with our country in the midst of a housing crisis. Get some architects to work and come up with a condo concept for malls.
Condos on the exterior walls and in the windowless areas have a gym, movie theater, and other amenities for the condo owners.”
11. It’s over.
“They can’t. Their time has passed.
They made it big by moving the 1950’s American small town “downtown” feel to a covered, HVAC’d, pedestrian-friendly environment centralizing a number if different specialty stores in one place where you could find almost anything you want.
Now, for the things not ordered online, Big Box stores provide almost anything you want at much cheaper prices than the mall, and mixed-use development is providing the manufactured small town “downtown” feel for those who value that.
Some malls will remain in business, but the market for them is continuously shrinking.”
“The focus would have to shift away from selling products and make that a byproduct of the experience.
What I mean is malls originally became popular because people love to shop and really love to window shop, so having all these choices of places to shop in one location turned them into a social event. So aside from shopping, people would hang out there. But the original reason they went there was to stop, window or otherwise.
They would need to come up with other reasons for people to want to go there besides shopping. Make them social gatherings.
I would personally put focus on the court yards with various attractions. I would start with two long mini-golf courses that run the length of the mall. Instead of compacting them in locations like we have now, just put them in a row so you start at one end of the mall and work your way to the other end.
Depending on the size of the mall, you could put three of them side by side. Instead of having one large food court, have a few smaller ones. That would encourage people to move around through the mall. Things like that would force people to look at the stores throughout the mall.
Hopefully attracting them back once the entertainment is done. Someone sees a store they think looks interesting and they want to go check it out when the game is over.
Sprinkle in other attraction locations like we have now, just enhance them.
I would also remove anchor stores and replace them with other entertainment locations. Make one augmented reality, one a bowling alley, one a trampoline park, and one an ice or roller rink.
You would basically turn the mall into an entertainment complex with stores. People would go there for the experience and the entertainment and that high foot traffic would, in theory, drive people into the stores to spend money.”
How do you think malls could become cool again?
Talk to us in the comments and let us know.
Thanks a lot!