Deserted Malls Find New Use As Retail Call Centers

Image courtesy of Nicholas Eckhart

In order to keep bringing in the cash amid store closings, some malls have gotten a bit creative with their thousands of square feet of space, from leasing to doctor’s offices and supermarkets to using empty space as party venues. Some retailers are filling these empty mall spaces, but with call centers, not merchandise.

The Wall Street Journal reports that landlords have begun to focus on non-traditional aspects of retail including customer support call centers and warehouses for online retailers.

For example, the West Oaks Mall in Orlando is prepping a 75,000 square foot space for a Bed Bath & Beyond call center.

The call center is just one element of the 1.1 million square foot mall’s new identity as a mixed-use office and retail building. The landlords already leased 145,000 square feet to Conduent Inc., for a back-office customer service center that processes toll transactions for the Florida Department of Transportation, the WSJ reports.

While changing out space where retailers once peddled clothing, accessories, and home goods for other retailers’ behind the scenes business might seem like an odd avenue for landlords, it offers them a guaranteed rent check.

“Is it better for me to find 20 3,000 square-foot tenants or is it better to find one tenant to take the whole space that would pay more money?” Steven Maksin, CEO of Moonbeam Capital, the owner of several malls, tells the WSJ. “Retailers are not earning as much as before.”