Like the markets, a walk through the mall these days is totally uninspiring. I am not sure what came first (the old chicken and the egg theory), but it has taken me an extra week to try and write something about this industry at this time. It seems that the mall is reflecting the markets or the markets are reflecting the mall.
Sure, Abercrombie and Fitch’s music keeps pounding in one’s ears as one walks by; Gap is featuring “Colour” in their windows which is more like them but it has taken them too long to get back to what their core strengths are; most stores still have sale signs in their windows and I am not sure they ever came down since June; American Eagle is featuring their standard BOGO event (which my 14 year old and 12 year old sons took advantage of this weekend); the Nike store looked flat probably suffering from a post-Olympics hangover; Pottery Barn looked empty; and MAC cosmetics looked bright but almost dated at this point.
The only scintilla of activity is in the multitude of cell phone stores featuring the blessed iphone by Apple or the Blackberry Bold. That may be the only energy source in an otherwise lifeless mall experience. It seems that shop owners and their staff are going through the motions awaiting for the clouds to blow over. It feels like everyone in the mall is holding their collective breath until the storm passes. It certainly looks like investors are feeling the same way.
So it is true that the mall reflects Wall Street, or Bay Street or whichever financial hub you care to name. And Wall Street reflects the mall.
Someone needs to break from the malaise and offer something new, cool, fun and affordable. Someone needs to be the contrarian and shock the mall customer into feeling some kind of passion The mall is in need of a bailout – badly.
I now do not believe a bailout will come from any of the larger retail corporations, they need to play it safe and cozy until the uncertainty passes. It will come from some virtual unknown, some small buckeroo who will, all on their own, nail exactly what the customer needs and shake the doldrums from our malls.
I hope it comes soon. For the financial markets’ sake.