It doesn’t take a business expert to realize that the retail landscape in our community has changed. Take a walk through Central Plaza, and one can quickly see that our mall is suffering from the same trend retail is experiencing all over the United States. But, these retail trends are not unique to the Lawton-Fort Sill community. In fact, as a society, changing retail trends are not unusual at all.
The “mall shopping” concept began when the first enclosed mall was developed in Minneapolis in 1956. It was created to get the shopper out of the harsh Minnesota weather. By the 1980s, stand-alone retail stores in the United States began to disappear, and stores in malls accounted for the bulk of retail sales and had also become central to many American’s social life.
However, over the past decade, the retail industry has undergone significant transformations driven by technological advancements, changing consumer behavior, and shifts in the competitive landscape. An average of 1,170 shopping malls closed EVERY YEAR between 2017 and 2022, and at the end of 2022, the ones left had an 8.7% vacancy rate. The evolution of retail over the last 10 years has been characterized by the rise of e-commerce, the growing importance of omnichannel strategies, the impact of mobile technology, and the emphasis on personalized shopping experiences.
E-commerce has been a significant driver of change in the retail industry over the last decade. With the increasing prevalence of online shopping, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have had to adapt to the digital marketplace or risk being left behind. The convenience and accessibility of e-commerce have reshaped consumer behavior, leading to a significant shift in how people shop. Retailers have had to invest in their online presence, optimize their e-commerce platforms, and enhance their digital capabilities to meet the demands of an increasingly digital-savvy consumer base.
Omnichannel retailing also has gained prominence over the last 10 years. Retailers have recognized the importance of providing a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels, including physical stores, online platforms, mobile apps, and social media. The integration of these channels has become essential for meeting consumer expectations and creating a unified brand experience. As a result, retailers have invested in technologies and strategies to enable omnichannel capabilities, such as click-and-collect services, in-store pickup for online orders, and the ability to check product availability across various channels.
Mobile technology has potentially played the most pivotal role in reshaping the industry over the last decade. The widespread adoption of smartphones has empowered consumers to research products, compare prices, and purchase goods on the go. Retailers have responded by optimizing their websites and e-commerce platforms for mobile devices, developing mobile apps, and leveraging location-based services to offer personalized experiences to mobile shoppers. Mobile payments and digital wallets have also gained traction, providing consumers convenient and secure ways to complete transactions.
However, challenging times often harbor opportunities, and communities willing to embrace innovative purposes for dying malls, such as Science and Technology Accelerators, have a chance to create new revenue streams, utilize the property to prevent abandonment, and improve the quality of life in cities across America. The impact of these structures can be just as critical to communities as the traditional mall once was. But, the how and why these structures are impactful will look differently from the days when hearing Bath and Body Works was coming to town.
Jennifer Krebs-Ellis is president & CEO of Cosmetic Specialty Labs, Inc.