Attention Shoppers: Let’s Not Blame the Consumers for the Death of Shopping Malls

This morning, CTV published an article titled, “Attention shoppers: Your online shopping habits are killing the neighbourhood mall”. And boy, do I have a lot of things to say about this finger pointing.

First, let’s beat the dead horse. Wages are stagnant and living expenses are going up. Here’s some statistics surrounding cost of living in Canada, in case you’re interested. But unfortunately, that isn’t enough because our finance minister, Bill Morneau, is also saying that Canadians should get used to short term employment… So why the hell would I waste any of my time at a shopping mall when I could be saving for an uncertain future? Shopping malls are literally designed to make you impulse purchase!

Second, of course people are going to buy goods online. It’s incredibly convenient! However, instead of condemning people who choose to shop from the convenience of their own home, we should also be asking, “what has contributed to this paradigm shift?”

One great example is, when I first moved to Alberta, I briefly worked at a lingerie store. You wouldn’t know it looking in, but the sales associates were put under a tremendous amount of pressure because employees weren’t just placed under sales targets represented in dollar figures, but also a certain percentage of customers who entered the store had to make purchases.

Why on my spare time, would I choose to go into a building where store after store, they’re going to use high pressure sales tactics on me? That’s not my idea of a fun Saturday afternoon.

I am not saying that we should just let malls die but instead of complaining about poor sales and the explosion of e-commerce, shopping malls should be embracing what makes them sets them apart: the human element. Neighbourhood malls need to try more things to bring consumers into the building in the first place. Why don’t malls host events like fitness classes, kids activities, DIY classes, or public speakers? Why are there always dirty marketing tricks with high pressure sales tactics? Or just disingenuous staff members?

Obviously this is a loaded topic, and I could go on for hours, but if Canadian malls want to stand a chance in 2017, they need to bring back a strong sense of community. If they keep going with business as usual, it’s going to be a very slow death to many, many jobs with management throwing their hands up saying, “I just don’t know what happened”.

niagara square