Why Are Many Malls Miserable?

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

Malls are a joke. I’m a buyer for a department store, and when I walk into malls, I feel like I’m on the streets of NYC, with sale signs over the windows and brown boxes instead of displays.

Professionalism and standards are gone, including the store brand signs, having consistent times for all stores to open and close, having clean spaces that don’t look sloppy, having appropriate businesses and having professional people who greet and help you. Department stores are usually – but not always – the exception.

So many spaces are empty and junk is on display, with windows stacked with old counters, tables, and junk everywhere. Pleasant aesthetics no longer exist.

The food courts have three-week-old food (especially bakeries), and the workers look and act bored; some are even reading books or their phones.

Why do I care? Because I feel we’ve lost care, care for ourselves, care for others, and care for our communities.

I’m worried about having my job, when malls are half empty and people are disconnected.

Help, please?


Good Employee

Dear Good Employee,

We commend you for wanting a caring culture. We know that American malls have changed with the majority of us shopping at places online. In fact, 80 percent now shop at Amazon.

According to Oliver Chen, managing director, retail and luxury sector, at Cowen and Company, a financial services firm, puts the mall traffic decline at about 5 percent. RetailNext data, provided by Cowen, shows an even bigger decline in overall retail traffic, averaging 7 percent from January 2017 through August 2018.

Malls do have a tiered rating system of A or B or C categories, however, I’m sure you are aware that there are still enjoyable and professionally managed malls to visit.The future existence and relevance of malls are important for all tiers. If the B and C tiers continue a downward spiral, it will eventually ruin the best ones, too.

An indoor mall is a relic that will continue to failunless they learn how to increase connectivity by creating a modern community feel, such as:

  • Having educational centers, like museums and libraries
  • Expanding outdoor spaces that include viable restaurants and having quality food courts
  • Modernizing child play areas for families
  • Making shopping experiential and installing digital options

Or adding popular amenities:

  • “Pick-up” merchandizing zones with easy parking
  • “Pop-up” restaurants orentertaining venues 

There are many things we can do differently for our communities,while establishing a new culture of civility in our cities. It’s about re-kindling a once-valued local environment. Good economics will follow.

Thank you for caring. Best to you.


Rhonda and Dr. Cheri