In conversations with property moguls (i.e. Mr. Free Market) the general consensus seems to be that shopping malls are facing a time of commercial decline, caused firstly by online shopping and lately, by the ChiCommiepox.
Yesterday I visited such an emporium universalis, expecting to find an indoor ghost town. And indeed, there were many boarded-up stores, but at a rough guess, only a third of the total.
I should point out that this particular mall — which I actually frequent quite often — is in an area of Plano known as Willow Bend, where houses start at $750k and spiral rapidly into the stratosphere. One would expect, therefore, that a mall supported by Nouveau Riche Pharttes (there is no Old Money in Plano) or, more specifically, by the wives and teenage kids of the aforesaid would be largely immune to the ups and downs of the economic cycle, and mostly, one would be correct. To whit, all the department stores (Dillards, Macy’s and Neiman-Marcus) were open for business and doing brisk trade — one saleslady confided to me that the Memorial Day weekend was the busiest she’d ever seen — and considering it was a Tuesday afternoon, still busy. As were all the jewellers, of which there are close to a dozen (!) in Willow Bend Mall. All the high-end stores — Talbots, J. Crew, Swarovski etc. — were not only still open but seemingly prosperous, with several Women Of That Ilk peering at the clothes and geegaws. Ditto the (overpriced) art galleries and toy stores (Crayola? FFS) which, if not filled with kiddies (school day), were at least open and selling merchandise to, one assumes, said kiddies’ mums and nanas. Ditto the housewares stores like Z Gallerie, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn.
The main casualties seemed to be what I call the Fripperies: candle stores, soap stores and those stores which sell house clutter. Sadly, the superb cutlery store (razors, knives and swords) was one tragic casualty, unless I missed seeing it (I hope I did: I buy stuff there at least twice a year).
No doubt, over time this mall will be restored to if not its former occupancy then at least something close to it, because its customer base is, as I said, more likely to be less affected by a downturn than most.
Somehow, though, I doubt it. On of the things Mr. FM and I often talk about is how the lockdowns have affected what were once considered inviolable institutions: in-office work, dress codes and so on. (An aside from Mr. FM: “There’s no way we’re ever going to be able to enforce a jacket and tie rule ever again — the kids will just tell us to get stuffed.”)
Likewise, I think the lockdowns have accelerated an already-growing trend of shopping which does not have to involve on-premises visits. I’ll talk about that trend and its marketing implications at a later date.