Malls: R.I.P.


This same spasm in American society that’s killing tract homes and reduced car consumption is hollowing out another infamous eyesore of the land: the shopping mall.

It has profound consequences both on a cultural level and an economic level

WSJ has the grim story:

On the low-income east side of Charlotte, N.C., the 1.1-million-square-foot Eastland Mall recently lost a slew of key tenants, including a Dillard’s and, next month, a Sears. Sales per square foot at the venue fell to $210 in 2008 from $288 in 2001.

But the long recession is helping to empty out the promenades. Some analysts estimate that the number of so-called “dead malls” — centres debilitated by anemic sales and high vacancy rates — will swell to more than 100 by the end of this year.

In the 12 months ended March 31, U.S. malls collectively posted a 6.5% decline in tenants’ same-store sales, according to Green Street Advisors Inc., a real-estate consulting firm. The recent slump was led by an average 7.3% sales drop at Simon Property Group Inc., the operator with the largest number of mall locations.

At the moment, most malls are healthy. As it says, only 100 malls are really considered to be dead (sales per square foot of $250 is the cutoff). But the trends are against malls, even if the economy stabilizes, due to the internet, higher gas prices, social networking (a substitute for the malls food court, which means goodbye mall movies), and the permanent reduction in household credit.

The Journal has a nice interactive timeline of the history of the shopping mall (which they really ought to make embeddable). Also, for a hilarious defence of the shopping mall in comic form, see this classic from Reason Magazine.

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