Malls, get creative or face certain death
I’ve been shopping. I’m not one of those people for whom spending money is a blood sport.
No, I get it over with and am generally happy to get the necessities taken care of and head on home.
This time around, however, I’ve been noticing that local malls (yes, not just Parry Sound) are host to more and more shuttered shops.
Just recently another business closed its doors at the Parry Sound Mall and despite its busy streets, the Huntsville Mall is not doing much better.
In the U.S., the decline of the mall is not a new phenomenon, in fact many American malls have been in a death spiral since 1995.
There are whole websites devoted to chronicling their gradual disintegration while Big Box stores and their bosom franchise companions swallow up both land and customers in new real estate locations.
Malls in small communities have lingered longer, facing a slow death by asphyxiation as franchises vacate and smaller businesses struggle with reduced traffic and sales.
Events that used to draw customers, even in the busiest summer months have vanished leaving a skeleton crew to soldier on.
All of which is kind of puzzling.
Malls are comfortable, air conditioned, have lots of easy, available parking, toilets in convenient locations so what’s the problem?
Mall problems have as much to do with a lack of creativity and problem solving as they do with demographics and changing shopping patterns.
On a personal level, I don’t think malls should even try to compete with the Big Box stores.
Why bother? Malls can’t control products, just renters so there is no way they can leverage bulk purchasing power.
Instead, malls should be looking at their natural assets.
A climate controlled in-door environment is a key asset as is the easy parking both of which should be a draw for a demographic that is aging.
Perhaps malls should be looking at creating some seniors’ apartments and then attract businesses that cater to the elderly.
Perhaps malls should be working harder with other community businesses and cultural/educational organizations to develop programs and services that would create a whole new customer base.
Forget about the franchises....which are boring and available in every community across Canada. Balance alternative businesses, such as health related organizations and seniors housing with a market place that is accessible to farmers, bakers and craftspeople.
Create a recreational club that features weekly events and charge a membership fee.
Join up with the museum, library, Stockey Centre and Festival to grow year round programs that benefit all partners.
Bring back concerts and events that celebrate the community.
Tie in existing users to educational opportunities and workshops. Kill the muzak....OK just kidding.
Evolution is the name of the game and it looks like mall owners are on the losing end of the evolutionary scale unless they dig deep and find a new vision, small communities will join the Americans in mourning their passing.