Will Millennials Go Back to the Mall? Not Really.

millennials don't shop in malls

A not very busy King of Prussia Mall, courtesy of Richard Owens via Flickr

Do you remember the days that teens used to come to the mall not only on weekends, but after school? It’s hard to believe but true – up until about 2008, American teens regularly came to the mall, armed with a parent’s credit card or cash.  They would hang out, shop, eat and watch movies with their friends.

Then came the recession. Parents took back the credit cards and cut back on spending even for key seasons like back-to-school.  Many teens were unable to get summer or part-time employment so they didn’t have any of their own cash to spend.  Not surprisingly, teen retailers like Aeropostale, American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister struggled.

At the same time, teens started using social media to be, well, social.  Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and more became the way teens communicated instead of hanging out at the mall after school or on weekends. And there were plenty of fashion blogs, new e-commerce retailers and fashion sites like Polyvore to browse without leaving home.  Suddenly, it just wasn’t as important to physically be at the mall.

Fast forward to today. Those teens that ditched the mall?  Well, they’re in their 20’s now and they’re still not going to the mall that often – a recent study found that even now, they are hitting the mall once per month. Let’s face it, this generation is just not a bunch of mall rats. All those years of going online to be social and browsing online has had its impact – millennials still find other ways to shop and browse.  And why not?  Online millennials can browse and buy from the e-commerce sites of traditional retailers as well as those with no to limited store presence like Nastygal, Modcloth, Madewell and more.

So will millennials actually ever go back to the mall in the way that malls are hoping?  Sure they’ll go when they need to try something on, or to see a movie, or for dinner.  And malls aren’t giving up on them by any means. But it’s doubtful that malls will get this generation of 80 million young people to think of the mall the way previous generations did.  And that spells trouble for the mall.

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