Derek Thompson, the Atlantic:
The number of malls in the U.S. grew more than twice as fast as the population between 1970 and 2015, according to Cowen Research. By one measure of consumerist plentitude — shopping center “gross leasable area” — the U.S. has 40 percent more shopping space per capita than Canada, five times more the the U.K., and 10 times more than Germany. So it’s no surprise that the Great Recession provided such a devastating blow: Mall visits declined 50 percent between 2010 and 2013, according to the real-estate research firm Cushman and Wakefield, and they’ve kept falling every year since.
Michael Corkery, New York Times:
E-commerce players, led by the industry giant Amazon, have made it so easy and fast for people to shop online that traditional retailers, shackled by fading real estate and a culture of selling in stores, are struggling to compete. This shift has been building gradually for years. But economists, retail workers and real estate investors say it appears that it has sped up in recent months.
The Times has a small photo gallery that helps illustrate the difference in scale between the operations of an online-focused warehouse-only retailer like Amazon and the space required for a mall, and it’s as dramatic as you might expect. Imagine what can be done with the space left by the hundreds of malls anticipated to close within the next ten years.
Retailers have hoped that their traditional stores, by offering catchy displays and top-notice service, can lure shoppers away from their screens. Some of the best evidence that brick-and-mortar retail is still viable may be Amazon’s experimentation with operating physical stores of its own.
Something I was unable to find is a recent comparison of the retail environment in shopping malls compared to that of high streets. I do a considerable amount of my shopping online, but I still prefer visiting my local bookstores to browse what they have on the shelves. I still want to try clothes on, and see what an iPhone accessory is really like before I buy it. It looks like Amazon is counting on blending that experience with the kind of data that’s only available to one of the world’s biggest online retailers.