Circumstances led me to go to Dadeland Mall this Saturday evening. It was to be the first time in many years that I set foot in what was once (and for all I know may still be) the most profitable mall per square foot in the US of A.
I expected that on a Saturday night things would be nice and peaceful. Boy was I wrong.
When I arrived at about 8:30pm, the parking lot was jammed. It took me maybe 15 minutes to find a parking space, although some of that was just spent idling in a jam caused by a big pickup truck that was blocking the lane as it waited for someone else to exit a spot and then slowly eased into it.
I did find a spot eventually, but once in the actual Mall it became obvious that I’d parked on exactly the wrong end of it. The walk from one end to the other allows me to report first, that there are a lot more high-end shops than I remember from when I used to shop there occasionally lo these may years ago and, second, that the Mall was jammed with people.
Who goes to Dadeland on a Saturday night? There were a number of young people, but they were outnumbered by adults. I have no idea why that is: Is the economy actually booming? Is it something about the back-to-school tax holiday this week (but that only applies to school supplies)? Is it the air conditioning? Is it tourists? Is there nothing better to do in Miami on a Saturday night in August?
Anyway, I ran my errand, and retraced my steps. Getting out was easier than getting in.
They built a restaurant section and filled it with places that suburbanites would want to go on a Saturday night – there’s a Bobby Flay burger restaurant, a sushi place, an Earls (feels like what might happen if you put Houston’s in a mall), etc. Plus, Apple store, Tesla show room, etc. Put that together with the fact that there is virtually nothing to do south or west of Dadeland, but that hundreds of thousands of people live out there, and presto.
Last, there is the question of perception. The myth that retail is dying has captured the American imagination such that people believe it despite the evidence presented by their eyes. Retail is not dying – its just changing. Cheap commodotized goods are being moved out of malls and being replaced by businesses offering retail services and higher end goods. And even then, Amazon has still not figured out how to replace two basic drivers of weekend shopping: 1) “I want it NOW,” and 2) “I want to get out of the house. Let’s go shopping!”
When people think that retail is dying, they think of the Toys R Us and Winn Dixies of the world (two recent and high profile bankruptcies). But those companies didn’t go bankrupt because “retail is dying.” They went bankrupt because years before the so-called death of retail, Toys R Us and Winn Dixie became hedge fund properties that were gutted of equity and stuffed to the gills with debt. Remember Wallstreet and Gordon Gecko? “Greed is good”? Not new at all. Meanwhile, retails giant Target is doing just fine, thank you very much, with stock prices near all-time-high. Not to mention Apple stock (let’s not forget, Apple is a retail company, too!)