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The Decline of Shopping Malls as We Know Them

The Consumer Review Report airs on WMCK.FM Internet radio in McKeesport and serves the entire Pittsburgh/Western Pennsylvania area.

Shopping Malls Are a Shopping and Social Experience

Shopping malls are what is today, a one-stop shopping experience. At the local mall, you can shop for any needed items like furniture, appliances, clothes, shoes, and jewelry, just to name a few, all in one location.

What you can do in malls that you can't do on is that while you're picking up needed items, you can stop in the salon for a haircutting appointment or enjoy a slice of pizza in the food court.

Shopping malls also created a social experience for family and friends that online shopping cannot. The social experience of browsing for something new and exciting or sharing a meal at the food court was the thing to do for teenagers and adults alike. Walking the mall for exercise is another social experience for adults, especially older ones.

Department stores, like Macy's, J.C. Penny, and Sears made up much of the square footage of shopping malls. But because of the declining consumer interest in department stores, malls are having to look for other ways to keep the doors open.

Local Pittsburgh Malls

Since I am from a suburb just outside Pittsburgh, I take a high interest in the malls in this area, although malls all over are experiencing the same transition.

Most people in this area can probably remember the Eastland Mall in North Versailles which closed permanently in 2005. People might remember that its tenants were stores like Gimbels and J.C. Penny. Some might even remember that the North Versailles Library was in that mall. I remember going to that library with my mother and sister, picking out books regularly.


Unfortunately, with the demise of that mall, memories, jobs, and businesses were no longer available to that suburb.

In an article titled "Eastland Mall Property In North Versailles" written by Mark Beklo from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

"It fell on hard times with the demise of the steel industry and competition from malls like Monroeville and Century III in West Mifflin".

— Mark Beklo from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By the way, Century III mall, once the third largest enclosed shopping center in the world, closed in 2019.

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So, after over a decade of Eastland Mall's abandonment, they are finally building a distribution center that is rumored to have as the tenant. Thankfully, this will bring jobs and businesses back but no social experiences.

"Why US Malls Are Disappearing" posted by CNBC

According to "Malls Look Toward Rocky Future Following Pandemic" by Megan Tomasic from the Tribune-Review which also appeared in the U.S. News & World Report, Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield had 13 store closures over the past few years, before the pandemic, including Sears and Bon-Ton. A mini-casino was built where Bon-Ton used to be.

Pittsburgh Mills Mall in Frazer took a hit when Cinemark theatre closed recently. Philip Pelusi, an upscale Pittsburgh-based hair salon left the mall in 2019 along with Petland. The mall must find another entertainment-based tenant, like the movie theatre, to keep the doors open.

Local Pittsburgh Malls After the Pandemic

If the shopping malls weren't already taking hits, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived creating more devastation to the fate of shopping malls.

In November 2020, an article, "Two Mall Owners, Including Owner of Monroeville and Westmoreland Malls, File for Bankruptcy" was written by Jeremy Hill from Bloomberg News.

CBL & Associates Properties Inc. is the one who owns the Monroeville and Westmoreland malls.

"The pandemic worsened an already dire situation for brick-and-mortar retailers, with a steady stream of chains falling victim as their customers shifted to online shopping. J.C. Penney Co., J. Crew Group and the owner of Ann Taylor are among the dozens of chains that have sought court protection since COVID-19 lockdowns throttled in-store shopping this year".

— Jeremy Hill from Bloomberg News

So, as the stores fell away, owners of malls began Chapter 11 filings which doesn't necessarily mean the doors are closing. Filing bankruptcy gives the mall owners time to work on turning the business around and repay creditors.

There is Hope

Megan Tomasic in her article "Malls Look Toward Rocky Future Following Pandemic" takes an optimistic view of the future of shopping malls.

"Business and shoppers at malls will rebound, though only temporarily is the prediction. A three-month resurgence will give way to slower foot traffic, leaving malls in a position similar to where many of them were months ago before the pandemic".

— Megan Tomasic from the Tribune-Review

Westmoreland Mall will recover because of the focus on entertainment tenants like the mini-casino, and Monroeville Mall's movie theatre will keep its doors open. Ross Park Mall's high-end retailers will allow the social experience to continue there.


Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on March 29, 2021:

Interesting analysis.

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