Are Traditional American Retailers Dying?

Lauren Krause
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The American retail industry has seen several changes in shopping malls in recent years as once-vaunted retailers Sears, Macy's, J.C. Penney Co. and others have closed stores. Teen apparel giants Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap and Aeropostale have also shuttered stores as consumers turn to lower-priced threads without big brand names attached to them.

Nearly 60 malls sit on the brink of closure, and more than two dozen have closed from 2011 to 2015. Despite these drastic changes occurring in America's shopping malls, the retail industry adapted and new businesses moved into storefronts vacated by apparel stores. The death knell of malls appears greatly exaggerated as the next generation of retail fills the void once held by traditional players.

Technology Stores

Apple, Tesla Motors and Microsoft continue to rise as American consumers pursue their love for new tech devices. Many gadgets are small, so they take up less space within a store. Plus, items such as tablets, smartphones and video game consoles cost much more than clothing, so stores make a larger profit with less overhead. Technology stores have fewer employees as well, a factor that also lowers a store's expenses. Add in plenty of new cellphone stores opening in shopping malls all over the country, and the technology boom appears ready for each new handheld that hits the market.

Health Care Clinics

Health care clinics continue to grow at about 20 percent per year, thanks in part to new health care initiatives and an aging population. Health care groups typically pay more for prime space in shopping malls, especially if they need larger spaces to store medical equipment and provide patient privacy. Malls represent a perfect blend of convenience and practicality for health care clinics trying to reach more patients in suburban America. Worried moms can bring their kids into mall-based clinics for convenient checkups, while mall employees can have get an examination on short breaks from work. Clinics in malls represent a vital way winter holiday shoppers can get better — faster — during cold and flu season, and they keep noncritical patients out of overused emergency rooms. In the end, these clinics keep costs down for consumers while making money in new ways.


Gyms and fitness centers offer workouts to busy people in shopping malls who can buy stuff, eat and run all in the same trip. Similar to health care clinics, fitness centers thrive in large spaces with room for treadmills, weights, pools, locker rooms and running tracks. As more Americans take control of their own health, fitness centers have a foothold on the changing retail landscape.

The shopping malls of America are not dead yet, and some retail centers simply need time to adjust to new paradigms. The faster malls promote these up-and-coming facets of retail, the sooner owners can avoid shuttering these massive complexes altogether.

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Mark the same is true of my local Mall. I hate to see that happen. I love going to the Mall. Sadly, so many bad things have happened at Malls in the last several years - including the Mall where I shop - that it makes people think again before going out. I just hope that the Malls can hang in until things change once again. It's all cyclical. 40 years ago, no one would have even thought about malls or even strip malls. So we went through up times and then down times. I still think that we will have up times again.

  • Mark Manz
    Mark Manz

    Agree, Malls are a dying breed. My Mall alone is down 42% from last year in traffic and stores closing every other month.

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