Brick-and-Mortar Retail Is Leaving Malls

The retail industry and commercial real estate developers have long lamented the slow, agonizing death of mega-sized malls. As consumers increasingly research and shop online, these brick-and-mortar hubs of consumerism have had difficulty competing. Where it used to be convenient to have a plethora of different stores at your disposal in one location, the setup has turned into a time waste for many shoppers.

 

They no longer need to spend hours in physical locations to browse offerings, only to find that their size is out of stock and they will have to order online. A trip to the mall now, more often than not, includes visits to one or just a handful of stores at most. Most of these trips are informed: customers know what they want, but want to get a real life feel for what they’ve been eyeing online.

 

Such a trip is comparatively difficult to achieve at a mall. Co-location of numerous stores means that there can be long distances between a customer’s parking spot and their target store. During the heyday of shopping mall development, one of the key selling points was the convenience of reaching them in a short car ride on the newly improved freeway system. As a result, most malls are placed well outside of residential areas. The drive alone can now take longer than the time between ordering and receiving an item online.

 

Many malls are now being repurposed and converted to other uses such as community colleges. But despite what, on the surface, looks like the death of traditional retail, giants of ecommerce continue to flirt with the concept. Apple has long held on to its physical locations and the services they offer. While some stores are located in shopping malls, many can be found in old-fashioned retail hotspots: high foot traffic locations in densely populated urban areas.

 

Despite continued domination of the online shopping realm, even Amazon continues to test how best to implement brick-and-mortar stores. Every foray into physical locations has one thing in common: online tie-ins. Amazon Go, the company’s attempt at a grocery store, requires no cashiers. Customers walk in, pick up what they need, and are automatically checked out when they leave. How? Amazon accounts.

 

Bookstores opened by the ecommerce giant tie in features from its website, such as displaying top sellers and reviews for products that are on show. Furthermore, there is space to show off gadgets such as the Amazon Echo or the Fire Stick. Customers who are interested but not quite sold online get the chance to experience the functionality first-hand.

 

Importantly, these stores do not rely on being located within malls. Instead, Amazon is targeting spots such as urban, walkable areas and college campuses. Traditional retail may not be dying, but it is migrating. Now, instead of customers traveling to commercial retail hubs, stores are coming to where consumers live and work.

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