End of the American Mall

American shopping centers are on the decline in favor of alternative online sources


Noah Hlavaty

Silverdale TOYSRUS after recent Company-Wide closures left many stores in disrepair

by Noah Hlavaty, Editor-in-Chief

As the 2019 holiday shopping season came to a close, the shopping malls and department stores felt the strain of online traffic. The mall craze is dead in the center of large recessions, with retailers such as J.C. Penney announced store closures in over 2,100 locations.

Recent closures like Sears at the local Kitsap mall highlight the growing concern for the end of traditional storefronts with the replacement of overnight online shopping. 

ToysRus, the toy and clothing retail company for children that was founded in 1948, ceased corporate-wide operations in 182 stores, including the Silverdale branch in late 2018. 

Even the recent success of the trails shopping mall in Silverdale, which blended the shopping atmosphere with several restaurants, large companies like Forever 21 are closing its doors.  

But despite the decline in brick and mortar stores, Americans are buying and spending more money with online purchases overtaking retail for the first time in recorded history.  

Nearly 67% of millennial shoppers utilize shopping through digital giants like Amazon and eBay compared to only 28% of their senior citizen counterparts. ”

— PEW Research Center

This divide between the younger generations of [millenial and Generation-Z] shoppers and senior shoppers have strangled local and national businesses that haven’t adopted the online model. 

Statistically, Millennial shoppers prefer brick-and-mortar stores to online retail for health and wellness products and to discover new products, yet many cite the ease of one-tap shopping, busy schedules, and the delayed gratification for their digital preferences. 

Tony Lott, Senior and Store Operations Manager at Central Kitsap High School felt that “online shopping is going to be the primary source for obtaining goods. However, services and more luxury items are going to be preferred in-store,”. 

Traditional shopping allowed more equal distribution of foot traffic to local businesses and large department stores and gave the small businesses fairer opportunities to stay afloat. Companies that have the capital to adjust markets easier and adopt online practices have suffered little to the closing of physical stores compared to small businesses.

Limited success to stimulate localized shopping with the #shoplocal movement, the retail market shift is putting many small shops out of business.

In many cases, larger companies are able to incorporate package shipping into pre-existing systems such as the UPS or FedEx, and the price of opening and maintaining brick & mortar stores are eliminated. 

Retail company Target has recently combined the strides made in the field of online ordering and in-store pickup with the traditional storefront advantages. These advancements saw an over 25% increase in Target web sales for the past 5 consecutive years.

But the increased demand with increased profits doesn’t indicate more money in the hands of employees. Amazon, for example, recently updated company-wide minimum wage to $15, but many economists contend that the increased shopping seasons combined with the prevalence of robot workers is hurting Amazon employees. 

While centralized shopping that promises fast and free shipping makes holiday shopping more convenient in the short term, the effect continued shopping has on local communities can be destructive. Small shops get outcompeted by larger shopping malls that can sustain public interest by offering online pickup or other incentives, and the end result is the loss of diversity among businesses in favor of large conglomerates. 

Most famous with the $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney and the large corporate merger of Cellphone titans Sprint and T-Mobile, Super-Conglomerates that monopolize entire markets are becoming the new norm. 

Not only would this force shoppers to purchase their goods from large corporations that have the ability to control prices and availability of goods, but it would also make it more difficult for startups to gain market traction and stay afloat. 

Convenience shopping provides benefits to large companies and younger adopters, leaving older shoppers and smaller businesses in a losing race.