Rebranding America’s Malls

A creative solution

Urban malls and flagship stores are struggling to adjust to the rise of eCommerce shopping and lack of foot traffic. In fact, retailers like Sears, Kmart, and Macy’s are being decimated. Amazon, Walmart, and Target successfully drive sales through the dot-com space, and our communities are left with approaching mall graveyards that were once vibrant shopping centers.
 
In the same manner, I once had a thriving business in the world of print design. A slower, artsy, and perhaps more creative form of marketing took a dive as the demand for faster, digital, data-driven marketing took off. The world of website design and digital marketing has been both an invigorating and humbling ride. The speed in which we live today demands us to remain flexible, and quickly morph into the inevitable. So, what’s next?
 
Change requires the absence of denial and an alignment with the truth. Let’s look up from our mobile devices for just a minute and take a look around our environment at the possibilities.
 
Impact of Growing Online Sales
With the growth of e-commerce over the past few years, we’re seeing an enormous impact on brick-and-mortar businesses.
 
• Toys “R” Us / Babies “R” Us shut its doors
• Macy’s will close eight stores in 2019
• JCPenney will shut three stores in Spring 2019
• Payless Shoes, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Claire’s have closed dozens of stores in recent years
 
Retail Apocalypto
With a retail apocalypse upon America, what do we do with the dead space?
 
More than likely, smaller shops that depended on the anchor stores to bring in foot traffic will lose customers. When these business owners lose revenue, they may suffer as well. Imagine large abandoned buildings sitting vacant. These once bustling business acreages will quickly become mall ghost towns. This is the perfect recipe for inviting criminal activity into the area.
 
Create Living Spaces for the Marginalized
Once again, let’s think outside the box and imagine abandoned malls being repurposed into thriving communities. There’s plenty of empty space to work with, the infrastructure is already in place, and we are all aware that there is no shortage of homeless. Not only is this idea revolutionary, but also reflects a sensitivity to our environment and awareness of our resources. Let’s reuse, recycle, and rebrand the mall.
 
With heating and air, water, electricity, parking, security, and structure already built in, it will save loads of time, money, and planning. By recycling the mall into a mixed-use development area with living spaces for low-income housing, we have transformed the forsaken into an environment where small business can thrive, and affordable housing can all co-exist.
 
Picture a place where there would be onsite mental health services, rehabilitation centers, satellite college campuses and classrooms for children, childcare, job placement opportunities, and more. Small industries could survive in these spaces and employ locals.
 
Retail Resurrection
The idea of revitalizing abandoned malls is not new. Several cities in the U.S. have grappled with this dilemma and come up with noteworthy examples of transformed communities. I invite you to read an excellent article on this subject: //livability.com/topics/real-estate.
 
We’re a creative bunch, and our call as digital marketers is to find solutions to problems. We dream big, live big, and know our purpose here is not to exist as mass consumers, but to give something back. The truth is, the vanishing mall is real and print is no longer the most powerful form of marketing. Let’s consider alternative uses for the growing empty mall, and continue pressing on towards the future of digital marketing. All things are possible, and all things will become possible.
 
“It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have.”
-Mr. Rogers

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