In one of those studies that begs the question, "who pays for these things?" the Wharton School of Business has found that malls are boring to shoppers.
Director of the study, Stephen Hoch, has determined that malls suffer from a "lack of discovery" (Philadelphia Business Journal, 2008, ¶ 4). Apparently, 35% of mall shoppers say "there was nothing new or unique in the mall" (Philadelphia Business Journal, 2008, ¶ 6).
I'm Not an Expert, But I Play One Online...
I love studies that confirm the seemingly obvious. How many malls have you been to that are exactly like the others? In my rating system for my BIGMallrat Malls of Northern California Web site, we have a rating scheme that considers uniqueness. It's simple. If every mall has The Gap, then it's not unique. If one mall has a Abercrombie & Fitch, but another does not, then that mall becomes unique. It's a stretch, but it works.
It's Not That Simple...
The situation may be more complex. Mall marketing managers have to determine a mall's differentiation and positioning. What the Wharton study has done is effectively determined that malls are not positioning themselves correctly. In fact, they have no differentiation whatsoever. The key for marketing managers is finding that differentiation, especially with the fierce competition of a down retail market. Mall anchors are few and far between, with mostly Macy's, JC Penney, and Sears being primary mall anchors. Dillard's is holding on, but not expanding. You probably can forget about Gottschalk's (regrettably). Kohl's doesn't prefer mall locations, either.
What us, as consumers, will inevitably find out is what mall marketing managers will do. Westfield seems to be the market leader, with the others either languishing or simply following the leader.
I'm hoping for the best.
Philadelphia Business Journal (2008). Here’s what’s the matter with malls today: They’ve become mundane. Retrieved January 4, 2009, from http://philadelphia.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/stories/2008/12/15/tidbits1.html?b=1229317200^1746434&ana=e_vert