What is a Dead Mall?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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Dead malls are shopping malls that are past their prime. While once a thriving place of commerce, a dead mall usually has a growing number of empty storefronts and a pronounced reduction in the number of consumers who shop in the stores that remain in operation. Several different elements can contribute to the gradual deterioration of a once thriving mall, including changes in the economy and a shift in the makeup of the neighborhood surrounding the mall.

One of the first signs that a shopping mall is beginning to transform into a dead mall is the loss of one or more anchor stores. An anchor store is usually a large department store that serves as one of the main draws to the mall. Many malls will have two to five anchor stores strategically placed around the cluster of smaller stores that are found at the core of the layout of the mall. When the anchor stores choose to relocate, consumers have less incentive to shop at the mall. As sales fall, the smaller stores begin to relocate or go out of business. The end result is the mall falls out of favor and begins to die.


The origin of the dead mall may have to do with shifts in the demographics of a city. As growth begins to take place on the fringes of the city, other malls and shopping centers spring up to provide shopping opportunities to the rapidly growing areas. A mall located in a portion of the city that is not growing will begin to stagnate. When the wealthier population of the city begins to move away from the area of the mall, the surrounding area changes. Crime rates sometimes increase, which serves as another deterrent to both consumers and owners of the stores located in the mall. If the trend does not reverse, stores and consumers begin to pull out, leaving a dead mall.

Not every dead mall ends up being razed after all the stores pull out. In some instances, an abandoned mall may be purchased by a local municipality and turned into office space. A dead mall is sometimes taken over by new owners and converted into a huge flea market.

A dead mall is sometimes referred to as a greyfield. Essentially, greyfields are sites that are already developed with plumbing and electrical services. Even if the dead mall is demolished, new buildings may be constructed using the utility hookups that are already in place on the site.


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