The Future of American Malls (HBO)


— On Friday, the country’s largest mall
will celebrate its 25th birthday. Complete with 12,750 parking spaces, 30,000 live plants, 11,000 employees and more than 500 stores, the Mall of America boasts
around 40 million annual visitors. The Mall of America is surviving
the so-called “retail apocalypse,” but that’s because it’s less of
a shopping destination than a retail-themed tourist attraction. But for malls that lack
an indoor amusement park and aquarium, the future looks much bleaker. — There are around 1,200 malls left in the U.S., and about a quarter are at risk
of closing in the next decade. Whether a mall hangs on or not depends largely
on the survival of its “anchor stores,” the giant department stores that were once
a mainstay of the American shopping experience. Sears, Macy’s and J.C. Penney each closed
around 100 anchor stores this year; and with them, more than 9,000 other retailers are targeted to close. And retail employees are feeling those closures. The retail sector, which employs
about 10 percent of people in the U.S., saw four straight months of steep job losses this year, before ticking slightly upward in the last two months. Still, more than 44,000 retail jobs
have been lost this year alone. So what’s behind the impending retail apocalypse? It’s easy to point to Amazon
and the growth of e-commerce, but that isn’t the whole story. Analysts offer a few other reasons: For one, we built way too many malls. Between 1970 and 2015, the number of malls grew twice as fast
as the population. And while mid-market retailers have struggled, outlet and discount stores like
Marshalls and TJ Maxx have thrived. And finally, in post-recession America, people are spending more on experiences— travel, bars, restaurants— than buying the latest Hot Topic shirt at the mall. Despite all this, this isn’t the end of malls. Developers are converting empty anchor spaces
into medical centers and office buildings, which could reshape malls
as city centers for rural areas. Others are doing anything it takes
to get people in the door: Destiny USA in Syracuse,
which took over the Carousel Center in 2012, is now the sixth largest mall in America. And its non-retail attractions include
an electric go-kart track, a ropes course for kids, and a chapel— with a gift shop attached, of course.


100 Responses

  1. skababy69

    August 20, 2017 11:53 pm

    Malls are going down because of ecommerce. People are buying online, a lot cheaper with free shipping and some sites no tax. Yep, it's that simple. Money. You could literally completely furnish your home, buy a car and have groceries all delivered to you on your schedule, FAST and easy.

  2. GamingTV

    August 20, 2017 11:59 pm

    thing is, only thing killing off malls are sears, macy's, and JCpenny stores closing, if you think about it, those stores always cover a lot of space, which means harder to fill that space up, while unable to pay for rent on the land the mall itself sits on, if you want to see the future of malls come to texas and look at all the outlets scattered everywhere, i for one can't stand outlets, because most of them are very tiny, and you'll never find what you're looking for, and hence is why i buy everything online

  3. Victor P.

    August 21, 2017 12:07 am

    Local malls used to be a place where teenagers go to hang out. Is this the case anymore? I don't think amazon has to do much with decline in malls since the type of people who buy online aren't the type to go to malls anyway.

  4. Hola Tio

    August 21, 2017 12:16 am

    Things change. Puerto Rico is a very interesting example that illustrates this transition. Local Spanish style plazas and streets saw their heyday and were progressively replaced by malls. If you drive around PR, you can see how most town centres are empty these days. This is quite sad, since what once used to be a place for gathering and social interaction (where people did not have to drive to) is now deserted. Sure, mall products were cheaper. Something similar is happening these days with Amazon, Ali Baba, etc. It is cheaper and generally more convenient to buy your things online. Again, things are bound to change, amd many of these malls will shut down. What's important is how you go about that change and what you do regarding the loss of jobs.

  5. Mark Serrano

    August 21, 2017 12:31 am

    I would got too the mall more if it wasn't for annoying isle salesman that get in my face about shoe cleaner and cell phone accessories

  6. Peter Manuel

    August 21, 2017 12:43 am

    The Malls I've seen in china have lots of food/drinks/restaurants and things for kids to do and the shops are almost secondary….

  7. It doesn't matter who we are, what matters is our plan.

    August 21, 2017 2:28 am

    1200 malls left in the entire US? Never would have guessed it. I could pick out of a list of 8 large malls that I can walk to in under an hour.

  8. exactinmidget92

    August 21, 2017 2:42 am

    Im in San Diego and we have the chula vista mall that just refuses to die. I would say its downfall started a few years ago with the closing of gamestop and borders. A few years later Sears closed and now the food court is gone. I swear that Buffalo Wild Wings is the only thing keeping it alive.

  9. Jorge David Ramos Mercado

    August 21, 2017 3:10 am

    Given their own graphs, this seems to be a sector wide issue in the last 2 quarters. There might be something there, but 42,000 job losses can just be seasonal workers layoffs which is to be expected. Also Sears has been in its deathbed, alongside its parent company K mart, for quite some time. I'm not saying hat you guys are not right, but this story was released a bit too early.

  10. Ron Tropics

    August 21, 2017 3:10 am

    There is only one mall around here and I haven't been there in years. They literally don't sell anything I'd buy.

  11. ResistRadio

    August 21, 2017 3:44 am

    Haha I loved the picture of Joplin high school. We were forced to move in there because our schools got destroyed in a tornado.

  12. jason!

    August 21, 2017 3:52 am

    I live close to one of the most popular malls in Canada… and it is supposedly converting into a downtown core / residential area… tons of condos being built around the mall

  13. ReapersCrow

    August 21, 2017 4:05 am

    It's true consumer culture has been decreasing but the spending money that ppl use to have isn't available as it use. Whether it has to do with jobs, scams, bills increasing, or the minimum wage is hard to say. Teenagers get jobs to pay for college. People having having a harder time getting jobs, maiming them and paying their mortgage. One mall in my area may close down in a few years which is sad to put a large portion of our community. A lot of grew up with that mall and it's the closest mall in our area. It has plenty of traffic going in to the place. The other two malls in the area are a bit of a longer drive. The one being close down is probably the second oldest. The may close the oldest mall and I hope not. That one doesn't have much traffic but I still love the place. The amc theater may be keeping that place alive. This is very alarming to me since I enjoy consumer culture and the things I can enjoy because of it.

  14. zeekmorris

    August 21, 2017 4:47 am

    The only reason i ever go to a mall is to try on something in person that i will later buy online for cheaper off ebay or amazon..

  15. thangstheking

    August 21, 2017 5:53 am

    I think some mall are dying but not all. While its true some people buy stuff from online it doesn't mean they stop going to mall. Mall in people with high concentration area still thriving.

  16. Labyrinth9000

    August 21, 2017 7:44 am

    Why is it every mall I go to has tons of kiosks in the center of the walk throughs selling the same things like smartphone cases, fidget spinners, shirts that stamp images on them, makeup demos, and people buying gold jewelry?

  17. Te A

    August 21, 2017 8:56 am

    All those jobs are minimum wage jobs and part time jobs no future for the employees this needed to happen for the economy to grow

  18. Dawson Jones

    August 21, 2017 11:40 am

    Vice videos end too abruptly. It's not a nice experience to watch them. I have unsubscribed.

    Vox is much better.

  19. ThrobbinHood

    August 21, 2017 1:55 pm

    Dan Bell has been covering Dead Malls forever.. it's a shame Vice didn't reach out to him and do a full 20-ish minute piece on this topic. It's actually fascinating what happens to malls as they die/close and get bought/sold – imagine buying your own mall for $1, for example.

  20. Ryan M

    August 21, 2017 2:08 pm

    The Mall of America is no longer the largest mall, sorry Vice. King of Prussia is outdoors Philadelphia 😉

  21. DJ Saint Pawl

    August 21, 2017 5:02 pm

    Too bad the mall of america isn't the largest mall in the US anymore, King of Prussia is bitches.

  22. Cafelogis

    August 22, 2017 11:04 am

    I don't go to the mall because it's cheaper online and i don't have to deal with bullshit teenagers doing stupid shit, starting fights, pissing people off, wrecking shit and running away cuz wtfcrazyrandomlol. Its also dirty and food court is usually packed with entitled nasty people. It's a cesspool.

  23. Michael D'Augustine

    August 22, 2017 4:59 pm

    There was a mall called Valley View Mall in Dallas, then they built The Galleria, a much more upscale mall a couple blocks down from it. Valley View almost completely closed down within five years. The only think keeping it and the three or four stores remaining in it alive was the AMC Theaters that still operated in it. Now they've evicted all of the remaining shops and transformed the entire mall except for the theater into an Art Exhibit.

  24. Avelier Plays

    September 1, 2017 9:36 pm

    I don't go to malls or shops anymore because of 2 key things:

    -Its impractical, you waste time and money going there with no garantes of finding what you're looking for as well as being more expensive.

    -Malls today all have the same stores as other malls, there is nothing unique about them that makes you want to go there.

  25. detroitmetro101

    September 4, 2017 6:18 am

    the problem is not the retailers, the problem is the mall owners, who have allowed their properties to become outdated. a lot of the malls slated for closure were built in the 70s and 80s, they look like jails, who wants to spend time in such depressing settings…the retailers and local officials where these malls are located should force mall owners to invest in their properties and update them, through building codes and ordinances.

  26. Kevin Cruz

    September 4, 2017 6:34 am

    Not hard to see why some of these stores are failing, just go to one and you'll notice how outdated their store experience is.  Some stores look exactly as they did 10 years ago and make shopping exhausting or a hassle.

  27. thefirespectrum

    September 4, 2017 4:06 pm

    I needed some last-minute clothes for a job and went to the mall the other day for the first time in years. Holy crap it was like the "Be My Guest" number in Beauty and the Beast of desperate associates trying to help me. The retail apocalypse has really turned the tables.

  28. Andy Tran

    September 5, 2017 7:04 am

    A good idea is to change these spaces to mixed-use and essentially created a "downtown" in the suburbs where most of these malls are located, which was their original intention in the 70s when many of them were built. The problem was that they all had to be driven to, since they were not zoned to allow high-density residential in the nearby areas. Rezoning to allow residential in the immediate vicinity and possibly replacing the acres of parking spaces to residential buildings can help create density needed to keep the malls relevant. Since many of the users will live nearby, they won't need to drive. Many of the mall tenants will also need to change to reflect the times (i.e. out with Macy's and Sears, and in with community centers, co-working spaces, and small businesses).

  29. jorge hdz

    September 5, 2017 6:50 pm

    I see how many mails in America are closing, and in Mexico are having a boom on building malls, that give you an idea of the problem, the high skill jobs and manufactured jobs are moving or moved to Mexico and the middle class Mexican are blooming and growing, and the middle class of the USA is decreasing. I live in a border city in Mexico so I have a good perspective of the USA and Mexico situation.

  30. TheRichie213

    September 6, 2017 2:58 am

    People don't want to waste their time and money when they can just order exactly what they want online.

  31. A M

    September 7, 2017 2:16 am

    When I moved to Florida from Cebu city one thing I noticed was how different malls were, where I grew up going to the mall was an experience there were fun places to go like bowling alleys movie theaters, rooftop garden, giant water features and a small park. In Florida malls here are so damn boring, no wonder they're shutting down, you end up getting tired of shopping bc there's nothing else to do

  32. SurvivorEnzeroHD

    September 25, 2017 6:12 pm

    Who goes out to buy stuff anymore? Waste of time just have everything delivered while u enjoy your time doing something else

  33. Scott Gibson

    June 26, 2018 1:30 pm

    It would not be so bad if Amazon was not a money grubbing scum bag corporation but they are. I feel bad for the younger generation but just like my generation who decided to purchase cheap imported goods they too will learn there is a cost associated with low cost. It seems great at first but over time it just goes to far. Every manufacturing plant that was employing thousands when I grew up are gone. Replaced by nothing. Good luck young people I wish you well.

  34. mel saint

    July 12, 2018 11:18 am

    It's like PC vs mobile. There will still be PC's but fewer. It can't be all online. Impossible. I still would want the assistance of a saleslady and trying it out in actual rather than being glued to a mobile screen. For repeat purchases, I'll go for online. So it's a mix. No need to paint a "bleak" future for malls. Malls are just nothing but stores anyway.

  35. BelowAverageLuke

    July 26, 2018 5:52 pm

    I went inside Macy’s, 6 months ago to buy cologne. And I was the only there, all of the employees were pestering me to buy something. I honestly couldn’t take it anymore, so I went to Dillard’s instead. Still no people, but the clerks were less aggressive.
    I could see how hungry all the clerks were to work, it was almost kind of sad to leave.

  36. Ravenpaw 770

    February 3, 2019 5:14 pm

    Apparently my store is closing, there’s less people, less stores, and everything is on sale
    Welp, goodbye my mall, your were my childhood mall U^U

  37. Tamara Price

    July 16, 2019 2:20 am

    I prefer to shop brick and mortar….but a lot of my favorite stores have closed, so I find myself buying online more now not because I want to but I have less choices. What will happen to all the people who work at these stores?

  38. GayJew

    August 29, 2019 2:29 am

    Turn them into gyms, schools, college campuses, indoor themeparks/waterparks, skating rinks, indoor dog parks. Be practical. The younger generations aren't dumb with the little $ they have. We aren't materialistic like our boomer/gen x parents. We aren't going to rack up credit card debt for plastic junk, & we don't much care for big chain stores.


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