The death of another shopping mall

lincoln mallby Dan Rafter

The end has come for yet another enclosed shopping mall. This time it’s Lincoln Mall in Matteson, Ill. — a suburb of Chicago — that is shutting down.

ABC 7 in Chicago reported that the mall was set to permanently close today.

The story of Lincoln Mall isn’t an unusual one. Indoor shopping malls across the country are closing at alarming rates. The reasons are many: Consumers like to shop online. They can find anything they need in the many strip malls lining the busy streets of their towns. There are more entertainment options for consumers today.

The heyday of the enclosed shopping mall is long gone. The Business Insider Web site last year wrote an interesting feature story about the problems facing shopping malls. That story includes a prediction from Green Street Advisors that about 15 percent of U.S. malls will either close or be converted into non-retail space in the next 10 years.

The story also includes a prediction from retail consultant Howard Davidowitz that as many as half of the country’s shopping malls will fail in the next 15 to 20 years.

We’ve written plenty about the slow but steady death of shopping malls here, too. Earlier this year, Midwest Real Estate News spoke with Lee Peterson, executive vice president of brand, strategy and design at WD Partners in Columbus, Ohio. This retail expert told us that shopping malls that don’t innovate will always struggle to capture the spending dollars of today’s shoppers.

“The fate of shopping centers is similar to the fate of physical retail stores in general,” Peterson said. “Because of the rise of online shopping, there will be fewer stores out there. But the stores that are out there are going to have to be more interesting places if they want to survive.”

William Di Santo, president of Lemont, Ill.-based Englewood Construction, told us that the traditional suburban regional mall simply doesn’t hold as much appeal to today’s shoppers as it once did.

“When companies were building these malls in the 1970s and 1980s, families would spend the day at the mall,” Di Santo said. “They would go to the movies, do their shopping, get something to eat and be there for the day. The Gen X and Gen Y shoppers, though, don’t want that. They shop online. They shop more efficiently. They shop for value. Today’s younger shoppers don’t want to spend all day in an enclosed shopping mall.”

So what’s the fate of the shopping mall? What will communities do with all the large, empty spaces left behind when their malls close? Keep an eye on what happens with Lincoln Mall in Matteson. This Chicago suburb is certainly not going to be the last to deal with a dead mall.

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