CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — A walk through the Walden Galleria tells the tale of so many shopping malls across America - dark, empty store fronts - with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many shoppers online.
“Malls, especially man ,regional malls, had already been struggling significantly prior to this. And now, with the pandemic, not only are regional malls struggling but flagship malls," national retail expert Charles Lindsey said.
The forced closure of many retail spaces due to COVID 19 is accelerating the nation's desire to shop online. According to a study by Deloitte only 12% of consumers expect to shop in malls at least once a week after the pandemic.
“Part of it has to do with consumer shopping preferences,and the fact that consumers preferences, and behaviors, have definitely changed over the years," Lindsey said. "Add to that over building and now most recently, the pandemic.”
So in order for the malls to not only survive but thrive, Lindsey suggests that they evolve.
“That’s exactly right," he said.
Lindsey said in the next five to ten years malls will have to transform into life style centers, festival spaces, or even housing complexes to survive. Such visions are planned to take shape locally at both the Eastern Hills Mall and former Northtown Plaza in Amherst.
“Those malls are now doing better than malls that haven’t converted. So I think we’re gonna see more of that, I think that’s the trend no doubt,” Lindsey said.
Meantime, as empty store fronts continue to grow at the Walden Galleria, its owners are hoping to recoup some their losses by suing some of their tenants for rent.
“What that signals to me is that the flagship malls are hurting too and the galleria is no exception," Lindsey said.
Jeddy reached out to the owners of the Walden Galleria for comment and has yet to hear back.