Since we always encourage dissenting opinions here at the FirstWard, and even though I don’t agree with his basic mall premise, I thought this comment by reader Todd Martin was so well done that it deserved a more prominent posting.
So here goes:
A few points in favor of an indoor shopping mall. 1st, the Internet will never replace brick & mortar. People want to touch and try on things. 2nd, people prefer 1 stop shopping, which explains Super Walmart, Super Target, and an Indoor Mall is bigger with more choices than either. The success of Walmart & Target is due to pricing rather than convenience. I’d take an indoor mall shopping experience over a Walmart trip in a heartbeat! I also prefer an indoor mall to walking from store to store in someplace like the Arboretum (especially in Winter or bad weather). The trick to success & profit in competition is providing Value rather being the low cost provider. That value may be found in lots of ways. It could be vanity, the mall can be more prestigious than Walmart. After all, people buy luxury cars. It could be customer service. People will pay more if there is a sales clerk that is available, knows the product, and is nice to people. It could be convenience in bundling a movie theatre, fine dining, or other attractions to your shopping day. There are lots of ways to bring value.
Randall Road is a success today because of traffic count & the lower cost of building out on former farm land. These factors may be fleeting. As each stoplight is installed, the time it takes to travel on Randall increases. Eventually, it is like a downtown and no one drives there anymore.
For an indoor shopping mall, that means making it a desirable destination. Woodfield Mall is a roaring success; the size, scale & diversity of stores appeals to a broad range. There’s a lot of niche stores you won’t find elsewhere. I love the Lego store. Spring Hill mall has a play area for kids. My kids love the mall because of that. The St. Charles mall is a beautiful structure and can have those same ingredients. The names of anchor stores may change, but big box isn’t dead. Maybe they get a Home Depot instead of a JC Penny’s.
St. Charles mall went through a negative feedback loop. Losing tenants begets losing more tenants. That’s a hard truth. Equally true is that positive feedback loops work as well. As you add value and content, you gain more and more shoppers. I wish the luck with the re-development and will give them a try once they have tenants again.