There's a profound change happening in retail that should terrify Macy's

Dead MallNicholas EckhartThe ‘dead’ Rolling Acres Mall.

The mall industry appears to have a new tactic to help it avoid an otherwise ominous fate.

Many malls are shuttering department stores — like Nordstrom and Macy’s — in order to replace them with stores that they believe will drive foot traffic, like fast fashion stores and experience-driven stores, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Journal cites H&M, an American Girl store, and a “Crayola Experience” as three examples.

This switch signifies a massive shift in the retail industry: the anchors that previously kept malls alive are no longer department stores.

“The definition of an anchor has changed,” Stephen Lebovitz, CEO of mall owner CBL & Associates Properties Inc., said to the Journal. “Cheesecake Factory does as much business as Sears used to do.”

SearsSearsA struggling Sears.

It makes sense — after all, as Forbes contributor Barbara Thau recently wrote, a decline in foot traffic is the “dirty open secret” in retail, and many department stores, like Macy’s and Nordstrom, have been fighting to bring sales up.

Additionally, many malls have struggled from turbulence (or have been sent to the grave) when their traditional anchor stores shut down, as Hayley Peterson reported in April. She also pointed to a Green Street Advisors report in the Wall Street Journal that noted that about one-fifth of traditional mall anchors would be closing in the near future.

It’s also known that fast fashion stores like Zara and Forever 21 are usurping traditional retail with their attractive price points and speedy supply chains. Additionally, young people are more inclined to spend on experiences (like fitness classes or restaurants). And then, of course, there’s Amazon — which is continuing to gain a bigger share of the apparel market, threatening traditional stores that depend on foot traffic.

Though the future of malls may look bleak, it appears that the some of the mall industry is not choosing to suffer just because many other retailers are.

For the full Wall Street Journal story, click here.

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