Recently, it’s likely you’ve noticed a popular trend amongst retail stores; a lot of them are closing. Malls used to be the center of social interaction, with teenagers going there every weekend to hang out with their friends, families going once a week to walk around, and fun activities to entertain shoppers. Now, many malls have empty store fronts or periodically change what stores are there. It seems like some stores are always closing or clearing out their stock while others never stay somewhere for very long. The Limited, Aeropostale, and, a little further back, Borders, have all declared bankruptcy, been bought out, or opted for a brand “overhaul” in an effort to attract more customers. Other stores, like Kmart and Sears, are announcing huge store closures across the country and possibly completely going out of business. This drastic change has only sped up over the last few years, so what are the reasons for this happening?

Stuck in their images

A big issue stores face is they’re stuck in their brand image from the 90s or early 2000s. While some brand images are iconic and those stores will always remain fairly popular, such as Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co., and many others, these companies are often higher end and do not cater to changing trends or a fickle target audience. Other stores, like Abercrombie & Fitch, created a striking brand that initially worked well for them, but no longer adheres to the current trends of their target audience. Teens shop at this store and teen fashion is constantly changing. Now, these kinds of stores are attempting to change their brand, but it’s been too ingrained in people’s minds for that change to happen quickly. It remains to be seen whether or not re-branding can be successful.

Malls are not the same

A few decades ago, malls contained roller rinks and various other attractions that entertained visitors, along with a few stores. Now, every mall has the same set of stores and food options. Teenagers no longer go to the mall to hang out, because it’s not really a “cool” place anymore. Malls have simply become somewhere to spend a couple of hours wandering through stores before you leave to do something else.

People find other activities

While malls are not the same as they once were, people now have many other options of ways to entertain themselves. People head to movie theaters, go hiking, or do any number of other activities, especially in more urban areas where something’s always happening. Teenagers and their parents are less inclined to spend the day at a mall when they have an endless amount of other places they can go on top of lots of obligations, such as sports practices or something else. Today, we have plenty of other ways to entertain ourselves and are involved in a significantly higher amount of activities than our ancestors.

Rise of online shopping
Finally, I’ll address the rise of online shopping and e-commerce, which may be the biggest reason malls are no longer doing as well as they once did. Almost every store now has a website where customers can shop, have clothes delivered to their homes, and easily return the items they do not like. Still other companies are exclusively online, like Amazon, and have driven down sales for other businesses. If a company hopes to survive, it needs to create a strong presence in the online market. People adore the convenience of shopping from their homes so they do not have to waste time taking a trip somewhere, trying on clothes or searching for an item, and then waiting in line to purchase it. Shopping is viewed more like a chore than a fun experience. This mindset has led to malls (and the stores in them) suffering from a severe lack of patrons. Unless brick and mortar stores take an aggressive and well-crafted approach to marketing their goods, e-commerce will likely outplay most retailers that rely on physical stores.