Decline of Malls Could Hurt Dillard's

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jan. 28, 2008 12:00 am  

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The enclosed shopping mall is on track to join Main Street in the annals of retail history, and that could mean more problems for Dillard's Inc. of Little Rock.

Nearly all of Dillard's 328 stores anchor the kind of malls that are rapidly being usurped by "lifestyle centers," which typically feature open-air streetscapes and easy parking access to stores.

The shopper preference is unmistakable:

- Mall traffic was down 10 to 14 percent in 2007 compared with 2006, said Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of America's Research Group of Charleston, S.C. Meanwhile, traffic at open-air centers was up by double digits.

- More than 300 malls have closed in recent years, according to, a Web site that tracks ghost malls.

- The Mall at Turtle Creek in Jonesboro was the only enclosed mall that opened in the United States in 2006, and that was one more than in 2007, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers in New York. No developer has announced plans for an enclosed mall in 2008 or the first quarter of 2009.

- Ten open-air malls opened in 2007, 10 more are planned for this year and one has been announced for 2009, according to the ICSC.

- A third of shoppers at lifestyle centers say those are now their primary places to shop, according to Beemer.

Obviously, Dillard's can make the move into lifestyle centers, and it is. Spokeswoman Julie Bull said the department store chain already has about 20 stores in open-air centers, and none of the nine Dillard's stores that will open this year will be in an enclosed mall.

"These are very compelling centers for us because they are being built in areas where our customers are shopping, dining and working," Bull said.



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