The Suburbs Will Lose the Most in an Era of Shrinking Retail

As brick and mortar retailers shed jobs and stores, suburbs will lose the most in terms of tax revenues and amenities.
April 20, 2017, 8am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Scott Alderfer

"It has been a decade since the media declared the death of the mall, in a year that would be the first in a half-century that no new malls were built in America," Henry Garbar writes for Slate. The closings have been widespread and deep. "The Limited, a women’s clothing store, shut down 250 stores and laid off 4,000 workers earlier this year. Sears Holdings will close 150 stores, including 108 Kmarts, and Macy’s will close another 100," Garbar reports.

This constriction of retail will affect suburbs more profoundly than it will affect cities, Garbar argues, and to understand why, you have to understand why malls moved to suburbs in the first place. Malls offered tax incentives and cheap land for large projects. This happened when retail was relatively robust. Now that there are fewer stores to go around, the competition will only become more fearsome."As shopping centers fold, developers of would-be projects will gain more power relative to suburban municipalities that already compete tooth-and-nail to steal each other’s business," Garbar writes. The result will be a race to the bottom and suburbs will be squeezed, whether or not they can accommodate these malls. To survive, Garbar opines, they'll have to look for new solutions.

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Published on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 in Slate
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