The Great American Shopping Mall Might Be a Thing of the Past

Get used to seeing shopping malls surrounded by empty parking lots. | Image: REUTERS/Mike Segar

  • Retailers were already closing shops at record rates before the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Now there’s little chance they will survive.
  • How will the coronavirus and social distancing affect malls once we return to ‘normal’?

As the coronavirus rips through North America, it’s delivering death blows businesses and people alike. One industry, which was already gasping for life, shopping malls, will likely be unable to recover from this pandemic.

While they may try their best, malls will likely have too much to overcome.

Shopping Malls Were Already Flashing Red Alert Before Coronavirus

Hopefully, you enjoyed your last trip to a shopping mall, because, well, it may have been your last trip to a shopping mall.

Business Insider wrote an article with photos of barren, abandoned malls throughout America. It was published over four months before any states went into lockdown.

It’s no secret that malls have been on the decline for years. In 2017, Credit Suisse predicted that up to 1 in 4 malls would close by 2022. That same year, a record 8,640 retailers closed shop. In 2019, more than 9,300 shops shut down.

Source: Credit Suisse

John M. Clapp, a professor at the University of Connecticut’s Center for Real Estate, told Business Insider:

This is a death spiral. Once a department store goes vacant that tends to be contagious because all those middle-mall stores — the nail salons and the jewelry stores — they are all depending on the traffic coming from the bigger retail stores.

Credit Suisse predicted that 2020 could be the worst year yet. And then, the coronavirus hit.

Will People Ever Return to Mall-Life After Coronavirus?

The coronavirus pandemic has hurt industries all across the board, but shopping malls may have the most difficult time recovering. As Amazon continues its seemingly endless growth, malls could still cling to one advantage: social life. You can’t meet new people or run into old friends on Amazon.

But you also probably won’t catch a life-threatening disease from online shopping, either.

Malls’ biggest attraction will be less appealing than ever. The American public is getting drilled with social distancing messages. It’s becoming ingrained in our psyche that close contact with strangers is dangerous.

One of the other main attractions in most malls, movie theaters, could be forever changed, as well.

How long will it be, if ever, before this distance conditioning eases up? What’s worse–it will likely affect the people that malls desperately need.

According to a report by Deloitte, traffic from older generations has dropped off the most.

The shift away from malls is happening fastest and most dramatically among the older and higher-income cohorts — groups that have traditionally been the core shopper in malls.

These are the same people who are the most vulnerable to coronavirus infection. These are the people who will stay away from unnecessary social contact the longest after we go back to whatever the new ‘normal’ looks like.

Don’t Call It a Comeback, Because There Won’t Be One

There doesn’t appear to a route back to prominence for shopping malls. There was mounting evidence that the richest, fanciest malls were separating themselves from the pack and thriving. But even they can’t change people’s feelings about social distancing.

It’s likely that this pandemic is the final death blow to a reeling industry. I hope you enjoyed your Cinnabons and Sbarro’s while you could because the retail apocalypse is being realized before our eyes.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.

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