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From Mallrats to Millennials: Reviving Your Local Shopping Destination

Once the beloved hangout spot for Gen Xers and the birthplace of many first jobs, malls were always buzzing with activity—a go-to place for shopping, dining, and catching a movie. However, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many malls had started to resemble ghost towns, posing challenges to local economic development efforts. Fortunately, with some creative planning, many malls have managed to escape the brink of extinction.

According to a June 2023 report by Coresight Research, foot traffic in top-tier malls saw a remarkable 12% increase in 2022 compared to 2019. Meanwhile, lower-tier malls also witnessed a 10% rise in traffic.

So, the question is: how can your local jurisdiction inject new life into its mall?

Let’s talk about how you can create spaces that not only rekindle nostalgia for Mallrats but also resonate with Millennials and introduce Gen Z to a whole new mall experience:

Evolution of Purpose

Many malls have undergone a transformation by diversifying their offerings beyond traditional retail stores. They are evolving into vibrant entertainment and lifestyle destinations featuring cinemas, restaurants, gyms, event spaces, and more. This shift allows malls to offer experiences that simply can’t be replicated online.

Experiential Shopping 

Malls are shifting their focus towards providing unique and immersive shopping experiences. This includes interactive displays, themed areas, and pop-up shops that create a compelling incentive for people to visit in person.

Community and Social Spaces 

Malls are increasingly becoming community hubs, hosting events, workshops, and activities that bring people together. This sense of community can be a powerful draw for consumers seeking opportunities to connect with others.

Online Integration

Embracing e-commerce and technology, many malls now enhance the shopping experience. For instance, malls may offer online ordering with convenient in-mall pickup, augmented reality (AR) shopping experiences, or virtual try-on services.

Mixed-Use Developments 

Some malls are undergoing a complete transformation into mixed-use developments that combine residential, office, and retail spaces. This not only creates a built-in customer base but also ensures a steady stream of foot traffic throughout the day.

Local and Independent Retailers

Malls are increasingly welcoming local and independent retailers, offering unique products and a personalized shopping experience that online giants may struggle to match.

Targeted Marketing 

Leveraging data and technology, malls now provide personalized offers and recommendations to shoppers, making their visits more relevant and enjoyable.


Sustainability practices are becoming increasingly common in malls, with green building designs, renewable energy sources, and eco-friendly initiatives. These initiatives can attract environmentally conscious consumers.

Adaptation to Trends

Successful malls adapt to current consumer trends and preferences, whether it’s focusing on health and wellness, creating inviting outdoor spaces or catering to niche markets like luxury or vintage goods.

As the retail landscape evolves rapidly, malls can still remain relevant by redefining their purpose, focusing on customer experiences, and adapting to changing consumer preferences. Those that innovate and offer value beyond traditional shopping are poised for long-term success.

And by the way, an Orange Julius and a pretzel sound like the perfect way to enjoy your revitalized mall experience!

Let us know if you would like to chat about your destination!

Rebecca Barnes

Rebecca aka DMO's Best Friend is the CEO of Imagine. With more than three decades of experience launching and operating award-winning companies, she gained invaluable insights into the intricate challenges that businesses encounter. Harnessing this expertise, she has build successful tourism marketing programs, initiatives, and campaigns for counties, cities, towns, venues, hotels, and captivating destinations. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her Grands, reading, traveling, and sleeping.

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