ST PETERSBURG, Fla. -- School starts for most of the bay area next week and that means back-to-school shopping. Where will you do your shopping? Have you ordered everything online or will you take the trip to the mall?
All the negative headlines prompted 10News Reporter Liz Crawford to verify if the death of the mall is exaggerated or really just a matter of time.
“The mall that you and I probably grew up on is, I wouldn't say it's dead, but it's definitely changing rapidly,” said James Miller, a spokesperson with the Florida Retail Federation.
Miller says malls today have to offer more than just shopping. Food, entertainment, and kid zones are now the norm.
Stephanie Cegielski, a vice president with the International Council of Shopping Centers agrees. In an e-mail Cegielski said: Malls are changing to meet the needs and wants of consumers. Those changes include an increase in restaurants and bars, movie theatres, fitness centers and grocery stores.
Cegielski also noted that millennials are now the largest demographic and they value experience over tangible items.
That’s exactly how General Manager Gary Malfroid describes International Plaza in Tampa.
“It's more of an experience. Everything from tech tables where you can plug your phones in and we have them in the rest areas. Bay Street's open until three-o'clock in the morning. People can spend four, five, six hours here. It's not unusual,” added Malfroid.
10News consulted Patrick Berman, a Managing Director at Cushman & Wakefield. He studies and compiles data about the retail market.
“The upper tier malls, like International Plaza, Westshore Plaza are doing very well. Sales are up, vacancies are down,” Berman revealed.
Meanwhile, Berman says sales at Class B and Class C malls, like Tampa's University Mall and Gulf View Square Mall in Port Richey have declined.
Interestingly, despite the varying sales data, Berman explained that all malls have seen a decline in visits.
“There's been a dramatic decrease in mall traffic in the past ten years.”
VERIFY RESULT: Less people are visiting the mall but sales in high-end malls are up. That means fewer visits but more money spent per visit. Lower tier malls are struggling and could likely die out.
Yet, many headlines might lead you to believe all malls will die. There's a website dedicated to the idea. Sixteen Florida malls are featured on the site www.deadmalls.com including Crossroads Mall in Clearwater, Gulf Gate Mall in Sarasota, Seminole Mall, and Tampa Bay Center.
Filmmaker Dan Bell spent two years working on a documentary called the Dead Mall Series. The series takes the viewer through vacant malls predominantly in the Mid-Atlantic states, however Seminole Mall in Pinellas County is featured on his YouTube channel.
Seminole Mall has since been converted to an open-air shopping center known as Seminole City Center with tenants such as LA Fitness and Earth Fare.
Patrick Berman explained that overall, malls in the Tampa Bay area are far more alive than other parts of the country because of factors like population growth and job growth in the area. Bay area malls have a lower than average vacancy rate.
Berman added, “Tampa Bay absolutely is one of the strongest retail markets in the United States.”
VERIFY RESULT: Not all malls are dying. Some will phase out but others are thriving with an intention to give the consumer more than just shopping.
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