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Bauer Business Focus

How Houston’s Shopping Malls Are Changing To Keep Up With The Times

Many factors determine which malls do well in Houston.

Florian Martin/Houston Public Media
Barbara Stewart, professor of retailing and consumer sciences, says malls don’t necessarily need major anchor stores to succeed.


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What's the state of shopping malls in Houston?

Well, it depends on where you go.

"Some are thriving and some are deteriorating," said Barbara Stewart, professor of retailing and consumer sciences at the University of Houston. "There are great and vibrant malls in our city and there are also some that have now hard times and are in perilous."

The Galleria or Memorial City Mall are examples of thriving malls, she said. "Greenspoint is probably on the far other end of the scale, with vacant shops, no major anchor tenants and just deterioration in process," Stewart said.

So what does it depend on whether a mall does well or badly? In short, it's about how many customers it reaches, Stewart said.

"It's kind of a cyclical relationship," she said. "A mall that draws from a larger geographical area will have more customer base, but also more customer base drives more retail success, so there's more tenancy."

And the economic status of surrounding residents matters, she said.

Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz/Houston Public Media
This file photo from May 2019 shows shoppers at Memorial City Mall, in west Houston.

Malls have long depended on its big anchor stores, such as Macy's or Sears. But as department stores are struggling and closing branches across the country, Stewart said the way forward may be without relying on those types of stores.

And, she said, that's not a new concept.

"As we moved to suburbs as populations, we got what we think is this traditional mall – two anchor stores with specialty retailers in between," Stewart said. "And I think the change is just part of the evolutionary process."

The more successful malls are incorporating more services, such as salons, medical, museums or even taekwondo, she said.

"Before e-tailing, it was about buying goods," she said. "Now we know that people shop for multiple reasons: We shop for social reasons, we shop for stimulation – all of which have to do not just with purchasing goods."

Click on the audio above to listen to the interview with Stewart.

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