As The Recession Deepens, The Mall Of America Says It's Doing Fine

The New York Times says there are about 1,500 malls in the US and many of them are in trouble. They’re being converted to office buildings or closing their doors for good. And yet, Minnesota’s Mall of America is allegedly doing fine.

“We’re more promotional now than we’ve ever been,” as Ms. Bausch puts it.

Sitting in her office in the basement, she is explaining how it’s possible that total sales at the mall were up 2 percent in 2008. Even she seems a little amazed by the number, in part because a major highway nearby was shut down during some crucial days in the holiday shopping season.

Yes, 11 stores closed in 2008, including Hot Dog on a Stick, a clothing retailer named Big Dog, and Wilsons Leather. But 31 new stores opened, among them American Apparel, True Religion and Best Buy, which brought in New Kids on the Block, the reunited boy band, for what the store billed as an “exclusive Best Buy opening performance and autograph signing!”

Tourist dollars helped. There are 71 Mall of America package tours from 32 countries. And there are special events, like the “Spirit of America” cheerleading competition, which unleashes a couple of thousand cheerleaders in the mall on the weekend we visit.

Of course, some retailers don’t believe it. The article goes on to interview the owner of Just Dogs! Gourmet, who complains that people are returning things more than ever before.

“You’d be amazed at how many people are returning things now,” Mr. Classen adds. “I’m going to have to start enforcing my return policy because — well, look at this.”

He reaches under the counter and retrieves a pair of pink dog shoes called Cozy Boots, size “xxsmall,” which are in a custom-made plastic zip bag.

“A woman just brought these back,” he says. “The zipper is broken. The cotton in the booties is gone. I can’t sell these again. This keeps happening. Today, every time I got past $300 in sales, somebody brought something back and I was back under $300. Back and forth all day.”

Our Love Affair With Malls Is on the Rocks [NYT]
(Photo:queen of subtle)