The mall is dying. This is what we constantly hear from news correspondents on CNBC and other news networks that report on the health of retail and the heartbeat of consumer sentiment, but it isn't because people are out of money or somehow tired of shopping, it's because the economy is currently going through a rapid transformation. People will never stop buying, we love to shop and it makes us feel good, but with growing populations, ever more congestion on the roads, and higher price mark-ups vs what we see online, it's no wonder the consumer is fed up. The reason for the dying mall can be summed up in one simple word: Convenience.
Why on Earth would I want to drive 30 minutes, spend another 10 looking for parking, weave through an impatient crowd of angry parents, then wait in line to check out, all so I can maybe buy one item that I could have very easily bought online with two clicks of the mouse, saved money, all in just a few minutes? I wouldn't, and as the newer generations are now starting to make money of their own, it's easy to see why the transformation is occurring. Walk through a mall or outlet these days and you will mostly see older generations, the younger ones are there just for entertainment and to hang out with their friends. If brick and mortar retail is to survive, it will have to change into an Online-Physical hybrid model where the experience in the store is the same as it is online ie: same deals, fast shipping anywhere in the country, and some kind of way for you to quickly read information about the items on your phone, perhaps by having it be connected with a chip that can be read by proximity.
Physical stores have to take advantage of the thing that makes them better than online shopping: the ability to touch the items. Stores of the future will probably only carry one of each item, just so the customer can see it first hand, and the purchases will be made online and delivery made same-day; convenience! How cool would it be if you could approach any item in the store and have the option to quickly read about it with NFC technology (near field communication) and make the purchase with your phone without ever reaching the counter?. No more pushy salespeople whose information is only given so they can make a sale. The people in the store would be there to provide services and answer questions, not to make commission, if there are people at all. This type of model could very easily be maintained with no human presence whatsoever as theft could be deterred with ever-cheaper sensors, alarms, and smart cameras.
Brick and mortar will have to adapt to the changing economic times and provide more than just things to buy, we can find stuff on Amazon faster and cheaper. Those companies who realize this transformation is coming already have a digital strategy in mind, those who don't will quickly wither away and will have to restructure as online juggernauts like Amazon take all the market share away. One has to wonder what will happen with all the old buildings that once housed stores like Sears, Kmart, Macy's, Dillards, and countless other brands that will soon disappear or re-invent themselves. In 2017 we have more retail square footage per capita than ever in history and we are now at the tipping point. Add to this a possible border tax and what you have is a cocktail for retail disaster, and a very large runway for online businesses to thrive.