Shopping malls in the U.S. are looking to add more entertainment venues and restaurants as part of an effort to reinvent themselves as “theater districts” focused on socializing and shopping.
To do so, many shopping malls have, or are in the process of converting vacant stores on their premises into indoor entertainment destinations, with activities including arcade games, go-karts, rides and brand experiences such as Legoland and the Crayola Experience, Curbed.com reported.
“Today, it’s about real-life socialization,” said Randy White, the CEO of White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. “Potential shoppers can have all the digital entertainment experiences at home.”
Shopping malls need to do something or they risk going out of business. That’s because consumers’ habits have changed, and more and more people are choosing to stay at home and do their shopping online. Between 2000 and 2017, out-of-home spending on entertainment fell by 3% in the U.S., according to Department of Labor data.
“The amount Americans spend to go out is actually going down because they’re staying home more,” Nick Egelanian, president of SiteWorks, a retail consultant firm, told Curbed.com.
And so malls are resorting to creating new experiences to try and entice people to visit them. The new American Dream Mall in New Jersey for example, has an indoor ice rink and ski slope. Meanwhile the Tuttle Crossing Mall in Columbus, Ohio, has converted a former Macy’s store into an indoor entertainment zone called Scene75, complete with children’s rides and go-karts.
But it remains to be seen if entertainment alone will be enough to rescue America’s malls.
““The A or B-plus level malls will survive,” White told Curbed.com. “The rest will turn into Amazon distribution centers or other uses. We’ve always had too many square feet of retail, and now it’s insane.”
Another question that remains unanswered is if people who come to malls for the entertainment will actually spend more on shopping.
It’s a risk no doubt, but in any case developers are increasingly betting on the idea of a family-oriented entertainment as a new kind of anchor for shopping malls.
“Malls may not be retail playgrounds anymore; maybe these new businesses can help redefine malls and their role as common social spaces,” Curbed.com reported.