Malls have always existed to bring together a multitude of inventories in support of commerce. They’re in convenient locations, sitting on major roads and highways and maintain parking lots, loading docks, and back-of-house storage as vital parts of their blueprint.
Yet while the mall’s purpose has remained unchanged since conception, the rest of the world has evolved at a mind-numbing speed. Sure, the mall made changes over time—pivoting from “mall” to “lifestyle destination” by bringing in restaurants, entertainment, and even office and living spaces in recent years to change up its tenant mix. Still, the mall has not kept up with the pace of change. Gone are the days of shoppers mindlessly meandering through the mall for hours trying to figure out what it is they want. Those hours are now spent browsing online at home. Mall shoppers these days visit with much more intent.
The same reasons that make a mall a viable option for any property (i.e. location, location, location) are the same reasons why it would be viable for a warehouse today. We aren’t talking about massive warehouse facilities in the middle of nowhere (clearly.) We’re talking about the facilities that are necessary for the shopper of today, who expects items to arrive next-day, or even the same day. In fact, more than 90% of consumers see two- to three-day delivery as the baseline.
That requires local “warehouses”—better known as micro-DCs or last-mile-fulfillment centers. Being close to major roads and highways was appealing to mall owners because it made it easy for customers to get to them. Being close to them as a “warehouse” owner means it’s easy for couriers to take product from your mall to customers’ homes.
We’ve all seen couriers crowding the corridors of malls at all hours of the day. They play a critical role in the retail ecosystem, but there is a better way to partner with them. Once you embrace the “mall as a fulfillment hub” mind-set, you can centralize activities like packing, pick-up, and drop-off of packages cross-retailer and bring those activities to the back-of-house. This clears the corridors for shoppers and makes the process more seamless—in turn lowering the unit economics and making it even more cost-effective for couriers.
At first, mall owners will protest. We’ve heard it all from our clients: “That’s not my role,” or “This will require a lot of initial capital.” But we will tell you what we tell all of them. This is an opportunity for you to be seen by your tenants as an even greater leader and partner. Mall owners are already in the position of bringing retailers together. Why not take it a step further and also be seen as their innovative supporter?