Sunday, January 04, 2009

Grand Opening: The Ghostown Mall

I preface this piece with this anecdote - my son and I went to the famous Mall of America in Bloomington Minnesota on Friday Jan 2nd and literally found the very last parking spot in the second of two massive parking ramps. Retail isn't dead, just yet...

Yes, indeed, they'll be one opening in every major suburb in America. The only thing one has to wonder is how it took this long.

A few years ago I spent some time in Scottsdale Arizona and came away almost disgusted by the sheer magnitude of retail shopping outlets. In the area encompassed by Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd on the north and Scottsdale Blvd on the west down to Shea Blvd the number of stores and restaurants was nearly overwhelming. A few years later I am struck by suburbs on either side of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul - namely Woodbury and Maple Grove - that look exactly like Scottsdale. I keep thinking who is shopping in all these flipping stores???

Apparently no one. (see the list below)

So are we in for a natural correction or a complete meltdown? As an inner city resident (by choice) I have to wonder if any of the stores we have lost to the suburbs will come back to the neighborhoods that are now underserved. Frankly I doubt it. There are several of the older strip malls or business districts that were completely abandoned when it was all the rage to run out to the suburbs (all the suburbs) and open mega stores. It forced us city dwellers to drive to the suburbs to do all our specialty shopping. Oh well, at least there was a mall in every conceivable direction.

The malls that grew and prospered during the past 20 years have been profiting from the unhindered credit card spending of Americans. If not credit cards then home equity lines of credit. Yes, even I got a little caught up in it. Thankfully I saw the light a few years back and have worked my way out of all my non-mortgage debt - how many Americans can say that?

There are those who see this as more than a correction in retail store saturation. Me, I'm a true believer in the market system but I bristle at the conspicuous consumption I have witnessed during the "boom years". It's legitimate to ask if this stab at the heart of the profit-seeking jones we've acquired over the last half century is really a blessing in disguise? I don't know the answer. We can't honestly go on the way we have been...

Here's a list I gathered doing an Internet search of stores that will be or have already closed. Welcome to Ghostown Mall.

Ann Taylor (117)
Movie Gallery (378)
Sprint/Nextel (125)
Ethan Allen (12)
Dell (140)
Friedmans (120)
Pier 1 (25)
Sigrid Olsen (54)
Talbots Kids/Mens (78)
Home Depot (15)
Eddie Bauer (29)
GAP (85)
Footlocker (140)
Bombay (all 384 stores)
Disney (98)
Macy's (11)
JC Penney (scaling back)
Lowes (scaling back)
Sharper Image (184)
Wilson Leather (160)
Pep Boys (31)
Pacific Sunwear / PacSun (154 Demo stores)
Zales (105)
Cache (20)
Lane Bryant (40)
KB Toys (356)
Dillards (26)
Fashion Bug (100)
CompUSA (all stores)
Linens 'N Things (all 371 stores)
Mervyn's (all 149 stores)
Club Libby Lu (Saks owned) (all 78 stores)
Steve & Barry's (all 173 stores)
Sergio Rossi (all standalone US stores)
Office Depot (126 stores)
Rite Aid (181 stores)

You can add my Michaels Arts and Craft store. So it's off to the suburbs to get my paints and canvases.