Is an Outdoor Shopping Center or a Mall Better for Businesses?

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Is an Outdoor Shopping Center or a Mall Better for Businesses?

While the concept of a central shopping center has been around since the agoras of Ancient Greece, our more modern understanding of malls – stores connected in one location with shared facilities – began in the 20th century. 

Although, it might surprise you to learn that it all started with an outdoor shopping center in Kansas City that opened in 1922. It was then much later in 1956 that the doors of the first indoor mall opened in Edina, Minnesota. Selling everything under one roof, often with large department stores anchoring a cluster of other stores, then became the go-to model for the next few decades. 

Nowadays, though, outdoor shopping spaces are becoming more popular than traditional indoor malls. But which is better for business? Let’s take a look. 

Different Types of Shopping Centers

As this article explains, certain characteristics differentiate the types of planned shopping centers. These are their anchors, the number of anchors, square footage, and customer base.

So, where do traditional indoor malls fit into this list? These are regional centers, attracting customers within a 15-mile radius. But, they often have vacancy rates of over 10 percent, with at least one empty anchor store. Filling or repurposing these spaces is a growing challenge for retail property managers.

In contrast, outdoor shopping center models are thriving. These can include everything from small one-anchor neighborhood centers to anchor-dominated power centers. But these varied shopping experiences isn’t their only advantage. These centers also have the physical space to expand and the potential to meet consumers’ changing needs and desires. 

Shopping in the 21st Century

Back in the 20th century, the traditional indoor mall model coincided with the reigning culture of consumerism and convenience. Some were keen to ‘shop till they dropped’ and max out their credit cards on luxury goods. Others embraced the mall concept’s ample parking and easy access to big name stores. Now, when consumers go to a shopping center, their motives are often based on social and leisure pursuits. 

As a result, modern-day shoppers are more drawn to outdoor shopping centers. Not least because outdoor plazas tend to have more dining and entertainment options. And, as department stores fall out of favor, these aren’t enough to entice shoppers to malls. Instead, they prefer the grocery stores, gyms, and big box stores that serve as outdoor shopping center anchors.

Another part of the appeal might be because the average American already spends 93 percent of their life indoors. A lot of any store-based shopping experience will always be indoors. But, indoor shopping malls make the experience feel even more limited and closed-in. In contrast, open-air shopping environments offer greater freedom of movement and choice of activity, coinciding with a new era of liberty and social connection. 

Outdoor Shopping Center vs Indoor Mall

The outdoor shopping center model offers consumers a more rounded shopping and social experience. They also tend to feature anchors that are more relevant to their lifestyle needs. 

For businesses, the adaptable structure of outdoor centers makes them more appealing. And, their increased footfall indicates that setting up shop in an outdoor center would be a much more promising venture. 

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