The Los Angeles Times published a story today about how retail malls are on the way out. The article cites a Credit Suisse report that projects 25% of U.S. retail malls will close by 2025, but explains that some retail experts believe the Credit Suisse estimate is too conservative. E-commerce, it seems, is sending brick-and-mortar retail sales the way of the Dodo. This is no surprise in Arden Arcade, where the downward spiral has been in play for some time now. Consider the old Savings Center on Watt, the shuttered SaveMart at Town and Country Village, the former Macy's at Country Club Plaza or the vacant OSH/Sports Authority space at the Watt end of the Safeway/CVS center on Arden near Watt. Our community certainly has evidence in support of the trend away from retail malls.
But, wait, the article says there is another trend coming on the heels of the closure of traditional retail malls. Specifically, the Times piece relates, “A lot of malls are being redone. We are seeing mixed-use, many more restaurants and service providers, and less clothing stores,” because of demands for lifestyle and entertainment. The new goal, then, is to attract millennials as the intended customers, knowing millennials are willing to spend money on entertainment, rather than just just buying stuff in stores. Old malls are thus being repurposed as destinations that involve experiences and activities. Even our County's Economic Development Plan seems to understand that, with its words about the "Next Economy", the "creative class" and "Neighborhood Livability". Unfortunately, it is not clear that Sacramento County is able to implement much in the way of moving towards the new vision for retail malls. Town and Country Village's historic, quirky vibe was replaced by big boxes. Howe 'bout Arden was remade as theater+big boxes. Country Club Plaza went for a giant discount grocery store. And the proposed Arden Creek Town Center at Watt and Arden is seeking auto-oriented customers looking for fast food with drive-up windows. Does it sound like our old malls are turning into places where hip, trendy millennials will hang out, enjoy "experiences" and even live in residential units co-located with lively centers of activity?
Bottom line: We are out there with the front of the pack went it comes to the trend of retail spaces going downhill. As for the trend of repurposing shopping centers as cool, experience-based lifestyle centers that combine living, working, cool restaurants and entertainment? Not so much.