Expert: Malls are in trouble
Certain malls in New Jersey and across the nation are "doomed," according to a retail expert, unless they start getting creative.
Howard Davidowitz, chairman of retail consulting firm Davidowitz & Associates, said online shopping and a shrinking middle class have caused a problem for what are known as middle-level malls, establishments with fewer anchors and less of an appeal to the wealthier consumer.
"The middle class is shrinking," Davidowitz said. "The middle class can afford less, so what did they do? They've gone to cheaper alternatives."
Claiming certain mall-heavy apparel firms are performing "terribly," Davidowitz suggested many middle class shoppers are going "off the mall," bringing their business to stores such as Target, T.J.Maxx and Walmart.
With a quick look online, one could find proof that hundreds of U.S. malls have shut their doors over the years.
Davidowitz noted today's troubled malls aren't in immediate danger, but without some changes, they could be out of business in the next 10 to 15 years.
"You've got to listen to the whispers before they become roars," Davidowitz said. "They better start doing something now."
His primary suggestion for the malls was an "out of the box" tenant mix. Davidowitz said they should reach out to entities that one wouldn't normally see at a mall, as a way to attract customers who may not come otherwise.
Grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Costco have already been brought into a couple U.S. malls as a revival tactic. Kohls, Target and Walmart have all been spotted in a number of malls throughout the U.S.
"The average food customer shops 1.7 times a week. The average mall customer comes once every couple weeks," Davidowitz said.
Beyond food, he said, malls could also help themselves with amenities such as a movie theater and a workout club.
On the bright side, high-end malls aren't as troubled. Citing The Mall at Short Hills as an example, Davidowitz said these locations are "rock solid" and don't need to be touched.