The Neverending Death of the American Mall

The death of the mall has been a meme long enough to have inspired an eponymous website, a documentary, and, with the onset of the recession, a slew of mall deathwatch trend stories. So...how much longer do these monstrosities have?

Well, we're happy to report that all indicators still show that the entire "mall" concept should collapse into rubble any day now! The latest figures, from the WSJ—first, the bad news, for malls:

  • "Vacancies at large malls in the top 80 U.S. markets rose to 9% in the second quarter."
  • Mall vacancies have increased steadily for nearly four years(!)."
  • Lease rates at US malls fell for the seventh consecutive quarter.
  • Plus, strip mall vacancies rose to nearly 11%, the highest rate in almost two decades.
But malls—check the suburbs—still exist. Why? Because for all the years of fading malls and rising online commerce, there is still, alas, a shimmering light at the end of the economic mall tunnel (which is paved, and air-conditioned). Here's the good news for malls :
  • Lease rates rose in 11 markets; vacancy rates were down in 31 markets.
  • Retailers are selling more at existing stores, which bodes well for survival, if not expansion.
The bad signs for malls outweigh the good signs. But they're massive, they're already out there, and they have inertia in their favor. America won't truly be free of the scourge of malls until we figure out how to usefully and efficiently repurpose or replace those massive, ugly, hulking empty buildings that dot the American landscape like so many forgotten landmines in an inviting field of flowers. The real trick will be razing the rotting husks of dead malls from the earth, and showing people something better. Only then can we bid American Orange Abercrombie Julius Macy's Food Court Starbucks Noble adieu.
[Photo via CLUI ]