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The Future of Malls Looks Bright: Report

Those with experiential retail, entertainment, pop-ups and luxury tenants most likely to thrive.

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The Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, Fla., is an example of a luxury shopping destination in the Sunbelt. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Many malls are thriving, carving out spaces for themselves in a competitive retail environment. By prioritizing experiential retail, entertainment, pop-up shops and luxury offerings, shopping centers across the country are remaining relevant in a rapidly changing retail world.

Those are the basic conclusions of “The Comeback of the Mall in 2024,”a white paper from data analyst Placer.ai. Key takeaways from that report include:

  1. Mall Visits Are Returning to Pre-COVID Levels. Although foot traffic to shopping centers took a hit over the pandemic, analyzing visit trends from the past couple of years reveals that most types of malls are seeing their visits slowly but surely return to their pre-COVID baseline.
  2. While the visit distribution during the week has remained stable, the hour-visit distribution has shifted. The relative share of mall visitors going to malls on weekdays vs. weekends remained stable between 2019 and 2023. But people are taking advantage of flexible work schedules to make more afternoon trips to malls while slowing the pace of morning and late evening visits.
  3. Experiences are key in driving mall traffic. Adding entertainment or dining options can help bring crowds in – and keep them there. When sports retailer Scheels opened in an Arizona mall, visits jumped – and remained high for the following months. Other malls received visit boosts following the additions of new dining and entertainment options like Texas Roadhouse and Main Event, indicating that shoppers are responsive to many kinds of retail.
  4. Pop-ups are a powerful traffic driver. When fast-fashion retailer Shein opened a pop-up last December at the Woodfield Mall in suburban Chicago, visits not only jumped significantly compared to the December daily average, they also matched those of the most important retail event of the month – so-called Super Saturday, which coincided with the day before Christmas Eve.
  5. Luxury is winning everywhere, but especially in Sunbelt States. Malls are adding high-end and designer stores at a rapid clip as demand for luxury goods soars. And Sunbelt States like Texas, Florida, and Arizona – all of which experienced influxes of wealthy newcomers – are seeing some of the strongest luxury mall visit patterns.

Click here to register for access to the Placer.ai full report.

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