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How the “Dying” American Shopping Mall Might Survive

To see the future of the mall, designers should look to emergent industries like cannabis and electric vehicles

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IF YOU’VE EVER read my blogs throughout the years on vmsd.com, you know I have what some might classify as an unusual fascination with the “dying” American shopping mall. I’m one of those folks that likes watching YouTubers strap on a camera and conduct walkthroughs of these empty, expansive places that were once bustling with life, now eerily quiet in the year 2022.

Malls are like a window into a not-so-distant past I vividly remember: These “third places” were still very relevant when I was younger, though at that time in the late ’90s/early 2000s, shopping centers were already beginning to deal with a host of challenges. Presently, there are outliers to the “dead mall” trope like Bal Harbour Shops in Bal Harbour, Fla., which usually operates at 100-percent capacity with a waiting list. Unfortunately for most malls, this couldn’t be further away from current reality.

In this month’s “Next Store” column, our Contributing Writer Brian Dyches examines the future potential of the electric vehicle (EV) industry for retailers and designers – one idea he posits is creating shopping-adjacent opportunities nearby/around charging stations or other EV services. Destinations like shopping centers/malls, or even mixed-use developments, may really benefit from tapping into that market to draw a much-needed new and captive audience, especially after the challenging past several years.

This got me thinking about how important it is for creatives, retailers and designers in general to remain cognizant of how other industries could impact or inspire our own in the future. Hospitality has had a major influence over the past decade (think F&B services at retail); and between mobile apps, AR/VR and interactive in-store touchpoints, the tech sector has also made its presence known in modern interiors. And who could forget the cannabis industry, which has pushed us all to think way outside the box in recent years, to say the least!

What other industries – especially those poised for growth – could offer potential future opportunities for retailers or store design professionals?

We’ll be asking more questions like this in our monthly BrainSquad surveys, and I encourage any of our store design or visual merchandising readers to sign up and share your thoughts and opinions with us. We want to know what inspires you, what drives you and what excites you, especially as we continue to redefine retail post-Covid. To learn more or to become part of VMSD’s BrainSquad, visit vmsd.com/brainsquad today!

How the “Dying” American Shopping Mall Might Survive

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Carly Hagedon is the Managing Editor of VMSD magazine. She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where she studied Journalism—Magazine Writing and American history. She also currently serves as a board member for the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

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