Even as mall staples like RadioShack and Sbarro find themselves shutting down stores, and malls elsewhere across the land are rendered useless by online shopping, the Mall of America is planning on expanding in the next 10 years. So how is this megamall surviving in the midst of mall meltdown?
The Mall of America isn’t our nation’s largest — that honor goes to the King of Prussia mall near Philadelphia, in terms of leasable retail space — but it’s set to get even bigger, Fortune.com reports: It just closed financing and will start a new expansion project this month, with plans to double its size over the next decade.
Does this mean malls can be saved? Well, sure, if they create enough of a hullabaloo with things like the largest indoor theme park in the country, and an aquarium with 10,000 sea creature, which are just a few of the other attractions touted by the Mall of America.
“The future of malls is about experience, creating a destination,” says Maureen Bausch, executive vice president of business development for Mall of America. “It’s about giving the customer an experience they’ll leave their laptop for.”
That reason to visit a brick-and-mortar mall isn’t that malls have things we want to buy — we’ve got the Internet for that. With 40 million visitors annually — a large bulk of those tourists making trips just to visit this one mall — the Mall of America has gone beyond a place to eat a slice and watch teens try to steal from that one novelty store that everyone steals from.
But once those visitors are lured to the mall by the Barbie Dreamhouse attraction or the Snoopy coaster (is that still there? It was when I was 12 and I loved it), the Mall of America still has stores that are very shoppable, in a best of both worlds kind of scenario. Stores that peddle jewelry, apparel, home improvement and sporting goods, in particular, things many people still want to buy in the physical world.
As one real estate firm associate points out, the focus now is not on the store, but the experience. Regional malls and high-end shopping centers have fared better than others recently, he points out, likely because just going there provides entertainment.
This all means that perhaps in the future, there won’t be anymore malls like those in days gone by, but we’ll instead have sprawling meccas of glitzy attractions, theme parks and carnival rides along with the kinds of stores that can actually compete with e-commerce.
It’s survival of the fittest — or in this case, survival of the mall with the best rollercoaster.
You can follow MBQ on Twitter and let her know how that Snoopy coaster is doing these days: @marybethquirk