Glimcher Realty Trust, which owns and manages shopping malls, is experimenting with making them Internet-proof. The company concedes that if shoppers can buy something online, they will. So it is trying to fill one of its malls, in Scottsdale, Ariz., with businesses that do more than sell stuff.
There are still clothing-only retailers at the mall, Scottsdale Quarter, but more than half of the stores offer dining or some other experience that cannot be easily replicated on the Web. That has Glimcher executives taking some unconventional approaches to finding suitable tenants — like testing out laser salons, getting hairstyling lessons and watching movies in a theater that serves food.Matt Yglesias and others have been talking about the "end of retail" for a while now and I'm on board. There's just no way brick-and-mortar stores can compete with the convenience of online shopping, especially when there is no sales tax (though that may change soon). So Glimcher is certainly smart to consider filling the mall with attractions that cannot be done online.
This seems to me to be the future of where activities and shopping are going. Cities exist so that everything is clustered and that makes business, among other things, much quicker and easier. Why shouldn't activities be the same? Instead of driving from the bowling alley to the crafts store to the movie theater, it would be a lot easier if they were located in one area with an abundance of restaurant options and you could walk from. This seems to be exactly what Glimcher has in mind.
The next question I have is whether it's possible to attract enough customers to fill a mall and cover the costs of running it. I'm not so sure on that front, but it looks like we're going to find out.