COMMENTARY

Sorry Jim Cramer, malls won't ever be ghost towns

March 3, 2017 | by Judy Mottl

Photo source: istock.com

Let me start with something up front: Financial guru/stock analyst Jim Cramer clearly knows money, trading, stocks, bonds and financial market strategies and trends.

No doubt about that. I would never presume to question his expertise in any of that.

What Cramer doesn't know as well, in my humble opinion, is the retail mall and what's happening in the innovation trenches in the retail sector.

Yet that didn't stop him late last week from declaring the retail mall will soon become a "ghost town."

Yes, all those hundreds of thousands of malls across this nation will soon be buildings of "blank space, blank space, blank space." Hear it here during an appearance he gave on CNBC.

To back up his 'theory,' Cramer cited J.C. Penney closing stores, weaker than expected mall traffic by retailer Gap in February and Nordstrom proclaiming it was "still making money" at stores.

Yes, that last attribution is a bit weird, right?

"It's incredible it makes news when Nordstrom says it's making money at its stores,” Cramer noted with a tiny drop of sarcasm.

The thing is this: It is news Nordstrom is making money after the social media parlay with President Trump regarding his daughter's Ivanka brand being pulled from Nordstrom.

Thankfully all that political nonsense isn't hurting the retailer.

Cramer goes as far to say he believes the only good option for the soon-to-be-empty malls is Lucky Strike — the bowling chain concept.

I'm guessing he's not only not a mall guy but not a big bowler as well. As most bowlers will share, bowling, as a recreation industry, is dying a fast death. Just walk into a bowling alley any given day and it's not pretty. Even the once popular disco nights and pizza specials aren't stirring a new wave of fans to the old-time sport.

But that's a topic for another time.

During his flamboyant declarations about malls, Cramer asked another financial analyst participating in the talk if he had been at a mall lately. The analyst said no, noting he doesn’t go to malls.

I'm thinking the same might be true for Cramer. I think Cramer needs to visit a mall (and then maybe a bowling alley).

Then he'll see for himself malls aren't empty or slowly emptying.

At least not where I live, not at the one my daughter, a retail leader for a big brand clothing player, works at. The malls aren't empty upstate where another daughter attends college in a rural small town.

Malls won't ever become "ghost towns" for one big reason: they aren't just places to shop. And I think that transformation has whizzed by Cramer's very pie-in-the-sky observation tower.

Today's malls are dynamic environments where retailers are deploying and expanding innovative strategies and mall operators have clearly worked hard to ensure they're not banking on big mall anchor stores for the rent.

Now we, meaning those of us who read, write and talk about retail every day, know this.

A few years back, at an industry event, there was a session on why mall retail space was facing a challenging time (i.e. renting fluctuations) – and the reasons made for a long list (real estate and utility and labor costs).

But one thing not on that list was declining consumer love for the 'mall.'

People — young and old — love malls and shopping is very likely second or third reason.

Why? Because we go to malls for dining experiences, for movie experiences, for social interaction, for walking clubs, for art shows, for insane entertainment such as Lego Land at the Mall of America.

So, I think Cramer, who is taking much better care of himself these days and exercising, should amble over to his closest mall and join one of the early morning exercise clubs.

Then he should return the next evening and check out the high-tier restaurants many malls now boast, and after a fine meal, head down to the mall level housing the cinema.

The next day, about 10:30 in the morning, he should sit on a bench near an innovative art display, and spend a few hours people watching. He could then stretch his legs and visit a 'fun' area where little shoppers can ride slow-moving motor bikes while parents rest and enjoy a cup of coffee.

Participating in all those 'mall' experiences, I think, may change Cramer's mind regarding those ghost town predictions.

Yes, the retail mall is changing, but it's been changing for the past several decades.

The change, however, has not been one of gloom and doom, but one of vibrancy and forward thinking. Nowhere near the definition of a ghost town.


Topics: Consumer Behavior, Customer Experience, eCommerce, Marketing, Omnichannel / Multichannel, Retail - General, Specialty Stores, Trends / Statistics



Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn. wwwView Judy Mottl's profile on LinkedIn

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