Malls are becoming ghost towns. They are not viable now and will only get less so as online continues to steal retail sales from brick-and-mortar stores. Continued bankruptcies among historic mall anchors will increase the pressure on these marginal malls, as will store closures from retailers working to optimize their business. Hundreds of malls will soon need to be repurposed or demolished. Strong malls will stay strong for a while, as retailers are willing to pay for traffic and customers from failed malls seek offline alternatives, but even they stand in the path of the shift of retail spending from offline to online.
This in turn creates further opportunity for online commerce. If I were thinking of starting a new retail brand right now, I would unquestionably start it online. And many very talented entrepreneurs are doing just this. I personally shop at Bonobos for pants, J.Hilburn for sweaters, Ledbury for shirts and Warby Parker for eyeglasses. All of these brands design and source their own goods. They historically would have started in the mall but they now are starting online, a trend that will undoubtedly continue. There clearly will be fewer new offline retailers to take the space vacated by the disappearing brick-and-mortar chains, further pressuring malls.
And in an ironic turn, many of these online brands are experimenting with offline stores—but typically with some important twists. Bonobos and Warby Parker have built showrooms in their New York offices where consumers can come in and try on samples. But if the consumer wants to purchase items, then the companies fulfill the product from their warehouses—they don’t stock inventory in their “stores.”