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Blog

"Small M" Malls of America

By: Mike Lauber - May 1st, 2017

I write and speak often on the rapid evolution of American retail. We have a microcosm of what’s happening nationally at our local New Towne Mall in New Philadelphia OH.


Back in 1988, the mall opened with three anchor stores: Elder-Beerman, Sears and JCPenney. In the intervening 29 years, at least 80% of the original 50+ stores have gone away, including Regal Cinema. Today, Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and good ol’ Elder-Beerman are the anchors as the mall owners look for new tenants to fill space soon to be vacated by Sears and JCP. Marshall’s and Jo-Ann Fabric are other recent arrivals. And Ulta just announced their store opening.


Earlier than most small malls, NTM welcomed a fitness center more than ten years ago as a stable tenant and have the Quaker Digital Academy housed there, too. Non-traditional tenants are attractive for mall operators, encouraging foot traffic and filling voids left by departing retailers.


Downtown retail worried a great deal that New Towne Mall would be the death of them. Yet, our downtowns remain viable and attractive. Like many malls and strip centers, NTM pushed our legacy retailers to up their game. Malls in America grew from the 1960s through the 1990s to meet growing demand. More malls will fail – we are surely over-stored in this country – but, I’ll bet, at least four-out-of-five malls will find ways to remain viable for years to come because retail still works even as it won’t require as much space tomorrow.