Opinions vary wildly on the fate of malls across the country in the wake of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.
In the one corner are the stone-cold realists such as veteran retail executive Jan Rogers Kniffen who see the writing on the wall when it comes to the great American mall. But on the other end are the more optimistic like Jackie Soffer, chairman and CEO of Turnberry, a 50-year-old real estate development company that owns several prized retail sites, including Florida’s upscale Aventura Mall. Soffer only sees opportunities in the aftermath of COVID-19.
“I don’t think it’s going to be easy. But the [mall] tenants will try. People want to go back to normal, whatever normal may look like,” Soffer says. “People like the experience of seeing other people.”
Aventura Mall, for instance, is a look into what type of mall can survive — and ultimately thrive — post-coronavirus. It caters to higher income shoppers with its Hugo Boss and Breitling shops, fine dining, snazzy artwork and the occasional piano player who serenades shoppers. These shoppers want the experience of buying an expensive product like a Breitling watch.
While Kniffen thinks malls will continue to serve a purpose in the community as we venture back outside after quarantines, extended closures have rendered them increasingly obsolete as the shift to online shopping accelerates individuals’ desires to avoid large crowds out of fear of getting the virus.
“A bunch of malls will start going away. And they will start…