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Interesting article!!!! Yeah, there are some interesting trends out there..here in Louisville the downtown area is becoming revived and reinvented in some ways. two of the suburban malls have been in financial trouble and there are stores leaving, even anchors, as a result of low traffic.
That's a good question for planners. We have built so much excess commercial space over the past 40-50 years that we need to consider how it will be re-used when abandoned. Will it be the fake downtowns, like those in the CNN article? Or is something else on the way?
Starting with shopping centers, retail paradigms have had a short life span.
Prior to 1960, virtually all major retail took place in the downtown, which had been the retail center for generations.
Malls started in the 1960's. In 20 years the market was saturated, and very few were built after 1980. And the big boxes were starting to come on line.
Category killer big boxes came into their own in the 1980's. They are still being built but there aren't many new markets left.
The same is true for discount department stores like Wal Mart and Target.
Mega movie complexes have very quickly saturated their own market.
The key element is that these retail trends require a large market area and they are parisitic either on the previous retail trend or on themselves.
I can't help but wonder if these dying malls will result in a revival of the downtown retail model. Personally, I hate going to malls because they have gotten too big, too sanitized... and there's nothing interesting to look at.
Last weekend a friend and I went on a historic house tour, then drove to a nearby city, known for its art galleries and antique shops, to have lunch and walk around. We had a great time strolling along the main street, browsing the merchandise in the storefronts and people-watching. We both enjoyed the experience of being in an interesting, friendly downtown, instead of a bland, boring, corporate mall...
Downtowns with independent merchants will serve a purpose for two segments of the shopping market. Those that shop for entertainment (non buyers) and those that shop for specific items that are not chain related (luxury / discretionary items)
Malls will continue to house the american eagles and gaps of the world and continue to attract people who want the homogeneity of the mall and brand lifestyles.
Big boxes will battle one another for market share and provide goods and services based soley on price and perceived value.
I think the next wave of shopping is a return to service based retailers or retailers that can distingush the products they sell or the manner in which they sell them from others.
I think the likely future in retailing is more choice. People critical of mall type shopping complain about loss of choice through the repetition of chain stores. Also the typical mall store will have to compete with the internet in some categories, whereas for smaller businesses the internet is more of an enabler (especially in non-food categories). It doesn't necessarily follow that malls can't respond to this criticism but the business paractices of many franchise and chain store organisations will make it hard for them to compete in that sort of sub-market.
I agree with DONK that the chains and franchises will not implode - the WallMart discussion emphasised that for many, shopping on price and perceived value is critical - but variety and choice should return.
the problems with the economics of malls and "fake" downtowns is that one company owns everything.
When one landlord has too many holdings in suburban downtowns (that may seem oxymoronic to those of you from the south and west but it's not) we see the same problems.
If a handful of developers were invited to the table, they had certain design guidelines, and properties were built to spec. it would take away a lot of the "fakeness" that people percieve in these new shopping centers and it would keep the place dynamic. Big malls can hold out for a wealthier tenant because the cost is spread out over a hundred or so units. If a landlord has two or three holdings he has to move on it - fast.