Guest Editorial: Bucking The Trend

By The Happy Wanderer

The word “mall” conjures several things in our minds. The food court. The multi-colored tile floors lining the walkways. The big-box department store with aisles that extend as far as the eye can see. Even the overweight mall cop.

Shopping malls have been a staple of the American consumer experience. Despite their enduring presence, shopping malls across the country are dying. Hundreds of malls have shut down since the start of this century. Many more are projected to close in the next decade. In a 2017 study conducted by Business Insider, data revealed that closures of anchor stores such as Sears and Macy’s in malls will push nearly 30 percent of American malls to closure.  There’s even a Wikipedia page devoted to the topic of “dead malls.”

In the Scottsdale area, we’ve always bucked national trends. Two of our city’s most notable shopping centers are at the forefront of change and are bucking these disheartening projections. Recently, the owner of Scottsdale Fashion Square and Kierland Commons, Macerich, filed impressive fourth quarter earnings documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Retail sales at both of those increased dramatically from 2017 to 2018. Fashion Square, which is nearing completion of a multi-year, nearly $150 million renovation and expansion with cool new businesses like Ocean 44, ended 2018 with sales per square foot of $1,159. This is a more than 50 percent increase from 2017. Kierland Commons had a sales per square foot figure of $1,137. That’s a nearly 70 percent increase since the prior year. The results are similar at Vestar’s Desert Ridge Marketplace and Tempe Marketplace, where innovation and resiliency have resulted in success.

The secret to their stability? Evolution and change. Long ago, Macerich realized that it would have to compete for consumers with Amazon and other online shopping purveyors. In order to entice shoppers, it has redefined shopping at Fashion Square and Kierland Commons into an experience that appeals to a buyer’s sights and senses. At the former, there’s an overwhelming sense of luxury surrounding a consumer with stores and restaurants that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s the place to be.

Leon Megginson, a pioneer in the field of business management once said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” In the Scottsdale area and beyond, our business leaders are doing just that successfully.