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How Shopping Malls Can Survive Post COVID-19

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It’s one of the biggest questions in retail: When COVID-19 has run its course and Americans are given the green light to go back to their lives, will those lives include trips to their local shopping malls?

Professor of Marketing Jie Zhang at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business said shopping malls might never be the same again, what with consumers possibly refraining from shopping in closed spaces for fear of contracting the coronavirus. And the coronavirus is a double whammy for many malls that were already experiencing a reduction in consumer traffic because of the growth of e-commerce.

“[COVID19] is another big heavy blow to shopping malls,” Zhang said. “But it’s also a catalyst.”

A catalyst?

“For some shopping malls and struggling retailers, this is a very sad story,” added Zhang, who studies consumer purchase behavior and retail strategies in the digital and multichannel retail environments. “But the coronavirus crisis may also serve as a kind of shock that will force shopping malls to work harder to improve their amenities, so they can survive and thrive.”

While the number of U.S. shopping malls is likely to be reduced in terms of numbers, the ones that survive will have to be scaled up in terms of a crucial best practice — added amenities.

“To attract consumers back, shopping malls will need to beef up their entertainment offerings, their recreational offerings, and their experiential-based-shopping offerings,” Zhang said.

Such amenities include higher-end restaurants, virtual try-on dressing rooms and smart mirrors, and high-tech customized product offerings, she added.

In essence, shopping malls will have to reinvent themselves to survive.

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