A consumerist culture’s haven in the ‘80s and ‘90s, shopping malls were the ideal locale for browsing, buying and frolicking with family and friends. But as consumers shift their shopping preferences online, lately, the beloved American staple seems to be tumbling to its demise.
Still, all is not lost.
Despite the doom and gloom that has infiltrated headlines, earnings reports and the bankruptcy court docket, many experts contend that shopping malls provide certain experiences that simply cannot be found in the online realm or elsewhere. Hence, they could remain a relevant setting into the foreseeable future.
Here is a look at three reasons why.
The Touch-And-Feel Factor
While many consumer needs can be met online, some products — footwear is one of them — call for a sit-and-fit environment.
Of course, some people are aware of their shoe size for a handful of their favorite brands and can order those online, but who owns just a handful of shoe brands?
Many consumers are seeking variety and want to visit stores in order to touch and feel the product — to measure quality and comfort — as well as discover new styles and labels to add to their closets. The same is true of apparel: A quick search online can unearth tons of stories about dissatisfied consumers who ordered a product online, only to discover that its quality wasn’t up to par or that it did not fit correctly.
The verdict is in: Today’s consumer has a fondness for experiences over things. While this isn’t exactly the best news for product sellers and makers, there are some hidden perks to this reality for malls.
Indeed, shopping malls house stores that sell goods; however, many people still visit these centers simply for the experience. And in lieu of new data that highlights consumers’ preference for experiences, malls are upping the ante in this arena.
Rolling out tech-savvy features as well as revamped food courts and play areas, malls are finding new ways to get consumers back in their doors.
Houston’s Galleria mall, for example, has more than 375 stores, 30 restaurants, two hotels and a full-sized ice-skating rink. That experiential blueprint helps the center bring in more than 24 million visitors annually. And it’s a safe bet to assume that visitors are picking up lots of clothes and shoes while they’re checking out all of the mall’s features.
Still Works Best For Certain Stores
During the company’s second-quarter conference call last week, Foot Locker Inc. chairman and CEO Dick Johnson declared, “Malls are far from dead.”
Foot Locker’s chief was responding to an analyst question regarding the retailer’s positioning in lieu of major mall anchor chains, such as Macy’s Inc., shuttering doors.
Johnson explained that certain stores — namely Foot Locker and tech-giant Apple Inc. — continue to attract scores of customers who are willing to line up and wait hours for their wares.
“We know that our customer — our core consumers — want to be in our stores,” Johnson said. “[Our customers] interact with us digitally on their way to the mall, [and when] they’re in the mall, they will take a photo of the sneaker on their foot and they’ll tweet it out or they’ll send it out to their group of friends and we get the responses back.”
For many, the thrill of lining up for a major sneaker release or the launch of the latest tech gadget has yet to be successfully recreated in another channel.
What’s more, for a growing number of companies, a digital component — as in the case of Foot Locker — complements their brick-and-mortar locations as opposed to competing with it.