This Is How We Save America’s Malls

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It’s as “nostalgia” as peanut butter and jelly.  I’m talking about going to the mall.

But it’s a pastime that’s quickly going the way of, well, Blockbuster Video.

It seems as if every month we hear of more major department stores closing doors … Macy’s, JCPenney and Sears to name a few. And when the big boys go down in a mall, they tend to take many smaller stores with them.

It also leads to many other businesses breaking their leases or negotiating much less expensive rent. That’s because many owners will often sign what are called co-tenancy agreements, which allows them out of the lease if a big store goes under. It makes sense … the foot traffic washes up and hits their bottom line.

There are people who actually track this stuff nationally … and predict that a quarter of American malls will close in five years.  That’s some 300 malls out of the 1,100 that currently exist.

Don’t believe me?  Here are some examples.

A decade ago, Sears had nearly 3,800 stores. They’re down to about 1,100. 

In 2017, JCPenney closed 128 stores and Macy’s closed 68.

So what exactly is happening … and how can we save America’s malls?  It’s simple. Businesses need to start by understanding consumer behavior.

Amazon is the bully in the cafeteria eating everyone’s lunches.  Or … is it?  Perhaps the bigger problem is businesses don’t know how to guard their own lunch box.

Putting aside the regulation debate for a minute, we need to remember that Amazon understands one thing better than everyone else seems to – and that’s consumer behavior.

Growing up, we went to the mall for two different reasons.

The first reason was to buy different products at different stores. But we have most of those products available at our fingertips now … and Americans are busier than ever before. We don’t have the time – or the patience – to aimlessly wander around the mall looking for the stuff we need.

But the second reason we went to the mall … therein lies the secret to saving malls.

We went there to gather. We went there to connect. We went there to enjoy the company of our friends.

In an age of growing disconnect thanks to all things “digital,” Americans have a hunger to connect with other people.

Millennials are searching for craft breweries, Kombucha houses, and eclectic coffee houses with open-mic events.

Full-time moms are looking for places to bring the kids to prevent everyone from going stir-crazy.

Teenagers are looking for a place to catch a movie and grab a cheap bite to eat.

Guys are looking for places to connect with other guys and do man-stuff, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.

The arcade of your childhood is dead. Unless, of course, you mix some virtual reality with a vodka/soda.

Wait – I can also pick up deodorant and a pair of jeans at the same time?  Done.

The secret to saving America’s malls is simply beginning the process NOW of re-examining consumer behavior and actually understanding what people want in this new world of immediate gratification.


Kyle S. Reyes is the Chief Executive Officer of The Silent Partner Marketing, co-host of The Whiskey Patriots and the National Spokesman for Law Enforcement Today. Reyes is also an acclaimed keynote speaker on patriotism and leadership, entrepreneurship and marketing by storytelling. You can follow him on Facebook.