By Michael Grothaus for Fast Company
If you’ve stepped into a mall recently you might find it not too surprising that malls are dying. There’s plenty of blame to go around for that too: Amazon, the changing shopping habits of internet-savvy consumers, and major brick-and-mortar retailers offering free shipping—just to name a few.
As a result, malls are becoming ghost towns, looking more fit for the setting of a zombie apocalypse movie than a setting where people congregate to shop. Matter of fact, as Business Insider points out, 25% of malls will shut their doors by 2022, and more than 9,300 retail stores are expected to have closed in 2019–many of them in malls.
That’s why it’s no surprise that mall owners are taking rather drastic steps to keep retailers from leaving. Matter of fact, popular fashion chain – and mall stalwart – Forever 21 just reached an agreement to sell its beleaguered business for $81-million. The buyers? A group that includes Simon Property Group, Brookfield Property Partners and Authentic Brands, reports CNBC. Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners are large owners of malls.
In other words, the two groups are buying their former tenant, in part at least, to keep that tenant in their malls. The groups’ fear is that if a large, popular chain like Forever 21 leaves those malls, overall foot traffic to those malls will drop, resulting in lower sales for all stores—and potentially more of those stores shuttering.
Simply put: Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners buying Forever 21 is an attempt to stop more of their malls from becoming ghost towns. Simon Property Group’s malls have more than 100 Forever 21 stores in them alone.
This isn’t the first time Simon and Brookfield have bought a struggling retailer to keep their malls from becoming vacant, CNBC notes. In 2016 Simon and General Growth Properties (now owned by Brookfield) rescued Aeropostale from bankruptcy, keeping the retailer in its malls. As mall traffic continues to decline, it’s possible more mall owners could take similar steps in the coming years to ensure the death of malls isn’t a foregone conclusion—or at least that their demise is slowed.