Striking While the Fire is Hot
Published: February 1, 2014

 

Seth Mendelson
Group Publisher
Group Editorial Director

 

 

 

America’s love affair with shopping malls has come to nearly a complete halt. What does that mean for pet stores that operate within these malls?


Various television reports over the last month have stated that consumers have lost their love of visiting shopping malls. The reasons are many, though a desire to shop at more convenient and less time-consuming places and an increasing desire to buy on the Internet stand out as the main culprits. 


Retail tea leaves tell us the bloom is off the rose as well. Some industry observers say foot traffic at malls has fallen by as much as 20 percent in the last decade. Operators of these outlets have responded; amazingly, a real estate executive stated on CNBC in early January that an indoor mall has not been built in the U.S. since 2006.


Yet, with billions at risk, mall operators are fighting back to protect existing properties. The first thing many are doing is trying to re-energize their properties, turning them from traditional shopping outlets into what many call “lifestyle centers” where hospitality plays as large a role in the consumer experience as shopping, and the emphasis is on fun. So expect to see more movie theaters, restaurants and even such service operations as medical facilities, supermarkets and drug stores at a mall near you in the immediate future.


Interestingly, several real estate and retail gurus say that this may all play into the hand of pet retailers, especially those who sell animals. Consumers, they say, will continue to flock to malls if they are entertained, and looking, holding and playing with cuddly animals tops the list of entertaining things to do while at a mall.


That should put pet operators in the catbird seat when it comes to negotiating or re-negotiating leases and getting prime real estate within the mall. With things in such flux, now may be the perfect time for pet store operators within malls to ask for a renegotiation of a current lease. Frankly, with that type of leverage, pet store operators should not be afraid to ask for a better deal or a better location within the facility.


As shopping mall pet operators move forward, they must remember that right now the bottom line is that mall operators need pet stores more than pet stores need mall operators. It may be a good time to act.