For the past year or so I've been a little obsessed with the state of shopping malls. Some stories I've read have said that the shopping mall is evolving into more of an outdoor shopping venue such as the Grove in Los Angeles, others have said that its disappearing entirely. One thing is for certain many malls have a lot of vacant space lately, partly because some of those anchor department stores are disappearing or consolidating. All that vacant space is forcing mall owners to get creative. One mall, the Westfield North County Shopping Mall in Escondido near San Diego, California may move a supermarket into the area that once housed a Robinsons-May store.
Big box retailers like Costco have also moved into some malls, taking over prized anchor spots vacated by department stores. Westfield already has a Gelson's Market at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles and a Bristol Farms at Westfield San Francisco Centre and has found that overall mall sales have increased as the mall becomes one-stop shopping. There's a hope that the big retailers will lift the sales of the smaller specialty stores in the same way that department stores did in the past.
Other ideas for attracting patrons to malls including indoor skating rinks, spas and community centers. Another type of mall that seems to be thriving is the specialty mall. The Christian Science Monitor recently had an interesting piece on the rise of ethnic malls which have continued to thrive even in a tough economy. This hints at an idea that for some malls the feature might not be in trying to appeal to everyone just to get them in the door but instead focusing on a select population of shoppers who will remain loyal.