Modular Retail May Bring Together Malls, Mobile Payments

November 23, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

There are enough “dead malls” littering the landscape these days to make clear the mall’s decline. Even those that aren’t specifically dead are limping along, trying to figure out what they’re going to do next. Some malls are embracing the concept of selling experiences, with some sound results, and others are adding what’s called “modular retail”, a notion that may help breathe new life into the old mall concept.

The Macerich real estate investment trust (REIT) is starting this concept up, using a notion known as BrandBox at the Tysons Corner Center mall near Washington, DC. Macerich normally offers its leases in three-to-10-year installments, BrandBox spaces top out at a year. It’s designed to call attention to online shopping brands who may want to see how well they could do in a brick-and-mortar setting.

It’s already worked, at least somewhat; Naadam, known for its cashmere products, has already signed on with the Tysons Corner Center BrandBox concept. Naadam, as expressed by co-founder and chief executive Matt Scanlan, considers the BrandBox concept “…a safe environment to test our brand in a mall environment.”

BrandBox makes for faster onboarding as well; stores can open in three weeks rather than the three to 12 months seen previously. Macerich even offers extra support like analytics tools to measure traffic flow for an extra fee. Macerich isn’t alone here; Simon malls are offering “The Edit,” which is similar to BrandBox on several fronts.

It’s good to see malls trying new things, if for no other reason than to stave off their own extinction. This alone, however, isn’t likely to do the job. People aren’t going to malls because they can get the things they want online, at any time of the day or night. Malls have to beat that with limited hours and limited offerings, so they need to offer things that can’t be found elsewhere. Trying to tempt online brands to set up physical presences won’t do that. Malls need to expand the experience side of things, offering opportunities for socialization, for events, for things you simply can’t do or get on Amazon.

This is a good start, but it’s the cart before the horse. Malls need to get shoppers coming back first, and that’s not going to happen by bringing already-online brands into malls.