Why Are There So Many Dead Malls? The Middle Class Is Dying, Too

(Nicholas Eckhart) This mall is in Randall Park, Ohio. It is dead.

(Nicholas Eckhart) This mall is in Randall Park, Ohio. It is dead.

Dead malls are in the news often lately, whether they’ve become self-aware, are being reduced to rubble, or are being turned into condos or houses of worship. Even teens don’t want to hang out there anymore. Why is it, though, that malls that once clothed and entertained the middle class are dying out? What, if anything, will take their place?

The New York Times has a sad take on the dead mall trend, now that the holidays are over and malls are emptier than they were a few weeks ago. We’re referring to the malls when saying, “What will take their place,” but could easily be referring to the American middle class instead. Malls that cater to very wealthy people are doing just fine, but it’s the malls anchored by Sears and JCPenney and filled with mid-range clothing retailers that have run into trouble.

It’s not just malls that are about to lose under-performing anchors that are in trouble. Experts have found about 60 endangered enclosed malls across the country. This issue isn’t even about the failure of specific retailers, but the general over-malling of the nation by developers in decades past. Those malls could transition from enclosed to open-air big-box centers, replacing the Gap and the Orange Julius with Walmart and a discount drink machine.

The Economics (and Nostalgia) of Dead Malls [New York Times]