Good News: Malls Where Rich People Shop Aren’t Dead

Image courtesy of Nicholas Eckhart

We’ve shared a lot of stories about dead and dying malls, and we wouldn’t blame you if you thought that the American mall is an endangered creature. Only it isn’t: high-end malls are doing just great. It’s malls in middle-class communities geared to middle-income customers that are suffering from high vacancy rates and failing tenants.

You’ve probably seen this in action in the area where you live: you’ll find multiple sad malls on life support in less affluent areas. (One in my city became self-aware and still has a Facebook page, years after being demolished.)

Then there’s that one mall in the wealthy part of town. You know, the one with the Nordstrom, the designer purse stores in the middle, and the Tesla store. Keep your own city in mind when looking at these numbers: Bloomberg Businessweek shared research from Green Street Advisors showing that there are around 270 malls with “A” ratings––that’s the fancy mall in your city. There are about 700 malls with lesser grades, which range from malls past their prime to malls on life support with only a few stores remaining.

Why is that? Shouldn’t malls for average Americans be booming, while the rich can tap their Apple Watch a few times to order a pair of artfully distressed jeans for $300? Middle-class malls may be disappearing with the middle class itself.

Two malls in Atlanta serve as an example: the Lenox Square has a Cheesecake Factory, a Neiman Marcus, and a Bloomingdale’s, with Microsoft, Apple, and Tesla stores inside. Stores that sell electronics and cars boosts a mall’s average sales per square foot, which in turn makes the mall more appealing to retailers.

Only eight miles away is a C-grade mall, Northlake, which offers a Macy’s, a JCPenney, and a Sears, along with other lesser-name anchors. There aren’t any destination restaurants or stores selling MacBooks or cars. Its anchors are all chains that have been closing stores as people shop less at department stores in general.

These Malls Didn't Get the Memo They're Dying [Bloomberg Gadfly]

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