“The malls they are dying“, says Joseph, a 32-year-old who has been working as a clerk in a department store on the outskirts of Washington for the last three years.
This is how this seller summarizes a phenomenon that can end with one of the pillars of American culture, shopping malls.
Their number has decreased of 2,500 in the United States in the 1980s to about 750 today And its decline is so pronounced that it is expected that within 15 years only 150 will remain in the country, explains the president of the consulting firm SiteWorks, Nick Egelanian.
In fact, Joseph, a clerk at Tysons Corner – one of the few large shopping centers left on the outskirts of the capital – believes that his work will “disappear” in a few years, as will these complexes.
The restaurants, a hook
Walking around Tysons Corner on a weekday morning it’s easy to see shops with no customers. Many of them they opt for restaurants and food stalls instead of shopping, one of the strategies that shopping centers have promoted to continue attracting visitors.
“We come here more to eat than shop,” say Cece and Britney, in their early 30s.
Grace, 61, admits that she likes to physically do her shopping and goes to this department store once a week. However, she says that her children between the ages of 20 and 30 they no longer accompany her. “They buy everything online.”
an inevitable extinction
In the opinion of Egelanian, who has been tracking the evolution of department stores in the US for more than a quarter of a century, no possibility to “alter course” of their disappearance, something paradoxical since “they were not built to die and are physically and legally hard to kill”.
According to the analyst, even Tysons Corner “will probably get smaller over time”, as it has in other cases, but it will continue to survive.
The so-called American “mall” has been one of the foundations of the development of society in the country.
USA has the largest retail area per capita in the world: more than 2 square meters per person, when in Spain and most European countries it does not reach half a square meter.
According to the Mexican magazine Real State Market, in Mexico this indicator is barely 0.11148 square meters.
The discounts, the problem
“We have more stores and freer prices than anywhere else. There are so many discount stores that the cost structure of department stores it doesn’t make sense anymore“, details Egelanian.
And it is that the origin of this debacle starts, against all odds, with discounts.
In its original 1960s form, malls had no price competition, since discounts were not allowed. It was as a result of the case “United States v. Parke, Davis & Co.” in the Supreme Court that the merchants they could start cutting prices.
This led to the emergence of more discount stores and the department store model. “got quite outdated”, relata Egelanian.
For this reason, luxury brands “do well”, as well as centers focused on consumers with less purchasing power. “Worst place to be it’s in the middle and most of the shopping centers are there,” says the analyst.
Faced with a possible extinction, the director of the Global Data consultancy, Neil Saunders, points out that “there will undoubtedly be more closures, but some will survive and continue to function well.”
“Los shopping habits have changed: now we buy more online and we buy more in our area”, recalls Saunders, who in turn believes that there are “too many malls in the US. in connection with the claim.
You just have to look at the location strategies of retailers, something that has given rise to “neighborhood shopping centers,” says Saunders. Many stores are following the pattern of abandoning malls in the heart of cities and moving to the outskirts, with smaller outlets in residential neighborhoods.
In fact, the number of clothing stores is growing, but today they are located individually in the suburbs instead of inside shopping centers.
In 2022, although the garment sector closed 750 stores in total, it recorded the second-highest number of openings, a total of 1,395, indicates an analysis by Coresight Research. Many of them settled in the suburbs.
Every time a TJMaxx store opens next door, Marshalls –Popular US outlet chains.- or an H&M is “another cut in department stores,” admits Egelanian.
The question is whether the malls will be able to “adapt to what consumers want,” says Saunders. “After all, the vast majority of sales are in physical stores, so the spend is there and malls just have to be able to capture it,” she concludes.
The author is an EFE journalist
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