Ten Ways the Mall Has Changed During the Recession

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The shopping mall, that wonderfully iconic, most American of places, is changing, and the economic downturn bears a lot of the responsibility. Store names that were once ubiquitous have disappeared. Vacancy rates are seriously high. And just about everybody is discounting merchandise and looking for new ways to connect to consumers.

How have malls changed in recent times?

1. Vacancy rates are the highest they’ve been in 30 years. Which brings up the question asked by the NY Times: What do you do with a deserted mall?

2. No more Linens ‘n Things, though the store has eerily come back from the dead as the online vendor lnt.com.

3. Your mall is a lot less likely to host a Blockbuster store. No need to worry, however: There’s probably a Redbox kiosk renting $1 DVDs nearby.

4. Speaking of kiosks, they’re everywhere nowadays—including new kiosks called eSpots at Macy’s that sell cameras and other electronics. You didn’t want to hear that pushy salesman spiel anyway, right? Chances are, you’ll be seeing fewer and fewer humans on shopping excursions in the future: Best Buy and Wal-Mart, for example, are testing out kiosks that will buy used video games.

5. Some malls have felt the need to get makeovers, welcoming discount stores they might have otherwise shunned like T.J. Maxx and dollar stores, and even leasing space to universities and government agencies

6. Mall storefronts are also being filled, oddly enough, by outposts for health insurance companies.

7. More people are going to the mall to go for walks and to socialize with friends, not to actually buy anything.

8. Tiny Toys R Us branches are popping up all over the place.

9. When it comes to getting a bite, fast, casual restaurants like Panera Bread—where the food is reliable and fresh, and where you don’t have to leave a tip—are growing at a time when most of the restaurant industry is suffering.

10. At mall stalwart chain restaurants like Chili’s and Outback, you can expect longer happy hours and cheaper margaritas!