This holiday season really made me take a good look at our local malls. Because I had occasion to visit the two nearest to me, I’ve made this observation: they are trying to hang on to the same old formula when that old formula no longer works.

The decline of malls in New Jersey and across the United States has been a widely discussed topic in recent years. Many factors have contributed to the decline of malls, including the rise of online shopping and the increasing popularity of big box stores and discount retailers.

Some experts have said, and I agree, that the true cause of the decline of malls is the failure of mall operators to adapt to changing consumer behavior and market trends. And although we see New Jersey malls trying to do this now, it may be too little too late.

Mall (Photo: WeloveBarcelona, Unsplash)
Mall (Photo: WeloveBarcelona, Unsplash)

In the past, malls were seen as a destination for shopping, dining, and socializing. They were a central gathering place for communities and offered a wide variety of stores and services that were not available elsewhere. However, as online shopping and big box stores became more popular, many consumers began to view malls as outdated and inconvenient.

Mall operators were slow to respond to these changes and failed to provide the types of experiences and services that consumers were looking for. As a result, many malls began to lose tenants, and eventually entire malls were shuttered.

To reverse this trend, some experts argue that mall operators need to reinvent the mall experience by offering unique and experiential retail options; as well as amenities such as fitness centers, entertainment venues, and dining options. By doing so, they can create a more compelling and enjoyable shopping experience that will attract consumers and keep them coming back.

Some have figured this out and are already doing it.

American Dream Mall (Photo: Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media)
American Dream Mall (Photo: Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media)

For instance, although people have a love-hate relationship with American Dream mall, this is a perfect example of the ideal modern mall experience.

Ultimately, the decline of malls in New Jersey and across the United States is a complex issue with many contributing factors. However, I believe that the failure of mall operators to adapt to changing consumer behavior and market trends is likely one of the main reasons for the decline of these once-thriving retail destinations.

Those that are still hanging on to the old model are doing so by the skin of their teeth. It’s time to adapt or say goodbye.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.

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