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American Shopping Malls Are Still Disappearing

Shopping malls are shuttering their doors at a rapid rate. Is there any hope on the horizon?
The abandoned Rolling Acres Mall, in Akron, Ohio. (Photo: Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr)

The abandoned Rolling Acres Mall, in Akron, Ohio. (Photo: Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr)

Like every other respectable American of my generation, I spent an embarrassing portion of my pre-teen years walking laps of my single floor, 242,000-square-foot, hometown mall: browsing lip glosses in the K-mart, buying cheap jewelry at Claire’s, and slinging skee balls at the arcade. But the malls of my youth are dying. More shopping centers are closing than are being built. Some are being reimagined as offices, churches, or hockey rinks, some are leveled, and many more are left to crumble as nature takes its course.

Business Insider reported in 2014:

Traffic-driving anchors like Sears and JC Penney are shutting down stores, and mall owners are having a hard time finding retailers large enough to replace them. With a fresh wave of closures on the horizon, the problem is set to accelerate, according to retail and real estate analysts. About 15% of U.S. malls will fail or be converted into non-retail space within the next 10 years, according to Green Street Advisors, a real estate and REIT analytics firm.

That number has not changed since this time last year. Green Street Advisors still expects at least 15 percent of the roughly 1,500 malls scattered across America to shutter their revolving doors in the next decade, according to Fortune, which obtained an early look at the firm's 2015 U.S. Mall Outlook. But not every shopping center is struggling, according to the report. High-end malls with anchors like Nordstrom and Apple are actually thriving; it's the smaller, second-tier establishments with stores like Sears that are disappearing.

Online shopping is often blamed for pushing middle-class malls to the brink of extinction. A survey from investment bank Piper Jaffray found that more than 75 percent of teens shopped online. When the firm asked teens if they prefer online or in-store shopping, more than three quarters said they’d still prefer to visit the actual stores.

Luckily for the next generation of mall rats, there is still hope for American malls. As Howard Davidowitz, chairman of the Davidowitz Associates retail consultancy, told CNN, adding grocery stores and lifestyle services like gyms could restore a steady stream of customers to struggling malls.