The American mall appears to be fading. Already this year, we have heard Macy’s announce another round of store closures. Sears has, too, and The Limited has announced that it is closing all of its brick and mortar stores to focus upon its online business.
This is happening in the context of a reasonably strong U.S. economy – one that is approaching full employment and has recently been experiencing accelerating wage growth. As indicated by Bloomberg, the common refrain is that “people can just shop online,” which reduces our collective demand for traditional modes of shopping. But there’s a more complicated social aspect to this.
The loss of American malls also signifies a loss of social and communal space for communities. Failed malls also leave behind enormous abandoned physical footprints and diminished tax bases. But the closing of stores is not evenly distributed. Many companies are maintaining, even investing in their most vibrant and profitable stores, which tend to be in wealthier communities. This is creating what some are referring to as a 'retail Rust Belt' in America. As an example, Sears is closing eight stores in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but just one in Texas. Seven K-Marts are slated for closure in Kentucky.