6 major ways malls have changed over the last decade

Malls are closing all across the US.

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Malls are closing all across the US.
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Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The mall as we know it is on its way out.

As the the retail apocalypse ravages the US, more than 9,100 stores are expected to close in 2019. And malls across the country are dying as department stores like Macy’s and Sears, once important anchors for mall foot traffic, are closing down for good.

A report from Credit Suisse in 2017 showed that between 20% to 25% of malls are expected to close by 2022.

“The department store industry has suffered in recent decades,” said retail historian Vicki Howard, who authored the book “From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store” and is a lecturer at the University of Essex. “And their path is closely connected to that of the shopping mall.”

As department stores like Sears and JCPenney shutter, they leave holes in traditional malls, which can sometimes lead to the shuttering of the entire complex. Since 2010, malls have either adapted or succumbed to the retail apocalypse.

From the dwindling number of malls to the introduction of experiential elements, here are the six main ways malls have changed in the last decade.


1. Across America, malls are shuttering

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Seph Lawless

Between 20% to 25% of malls will close by 2022, according to a report done by Credit Suisse in 2017.

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider


The problem is partly due to mass store closures, which cripples shopping centers. More than 9,100 stores are expected to close in 2019.

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Seph Lawless

Source: Business Insider


Nordstrom, JCPenney and Macy’s all closed their locations in Northgate Mall in Seattle, which is being transformed into offices, homes, and an NHL training center.

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Northgate Mall was the first shopping center in America to be called a mall.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


2. Foot traffic is declining

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Getty Images

August 2018 was when foot traffic at some of the best shopping centers across the country hit a high point. Since then, it has fallen, according to a report from data analytics firm Thasos.

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Wikimedia Commons

Source: CNBC


3. The anchor store is a thing of the past

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Department stores like JCPenney, Sears, and Macy’s were once foot-traffic anchors for malls across the country.

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Kim Bhasin / Business Insider

But many of these anchor stores have been struggling in the last decade. And when stores like JCPenney or Macy’s close, they leave holes in traditional malls, which can sometimes lead to the shuttering of the entire complex.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider


Sears, once a leading American retailer, filed for bankruptcy in October 2018 and was bought out in February of this year by Eddie Lampert, the company’s former CEO. Hundreds of Sears stores have closed in the past few years.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


4. The stores in malls are changing

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Jewelry chain Claire’s filed for bankruptcy in March of 2018 and blamed its woes on declining mall traffic.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Many formerly popular mall stores have died in the last decade. Wet Seal filed for bankruptcy in 2015 and announced in 2017 that it would close all of its stores.

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Kirsten Acuna/Business Insider

Source: The Washington Post, Business Insider


Meanwhile, new brands like Bonobos — which started out online in 2007 — have developed a brick-and-mortar presence in malls across America.

Source: Business Insider, Bonobos


5. Experience has become a core focus in retail

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A rendering of American Dream, one of the largest malls in the US, which includes a theme park and ice-skating rink.
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American Dream

Megamalls, like the recently opened American Dream in New Jersey, represent a new kind of shopping complex, one with an independence from traditional department store anchors.


Other attractions and amenities, like theme parks and aquariums, are expected to drive foot traffic in these massive centers.

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American Dream features a Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, which is the largest indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere.
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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

“This is a different kind of complex not dependent on department store anchors,” retail historian Vicki Howard said of the American Dream.

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American Dream also has an ice-skating rink in the complex.
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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

6. Virtual reality pop-ups in malls are one of the latest trends of the decade to hit shopping malls and drive foot traffic

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Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Source: Pymnts.com


Virtual reality startup The Void partnered with mall operator Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield to bring 25 pop-up experiences to the US and Europe by 2022.

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YouTube/Star Wars

Source: Pymnts.com