How Gen Z Is Reviving The Nostalgic Mall Shopping Experience

How Gen Z Is Reviving The Nostalgic Mall Shopping Experience | Maskot
How Gen Z Is Reviving The Nostalgic Mall Shopping Experience | Maskot

Despite the pandemic’s impact, malls have rebounded thanks to young shoppers. This is partly due to the digital space that has made Gen Z a generation that expects instant gratification. Physical stores appeal to them due to the immediacy of touching and buying products.

Professor Stephanie Tully of USC Marshall School of Business believes the instant download era has created a new perspective on physical purchases.

“This digitally savvy generation is used to having things immediately that they can download, access, watch,” Tully said. “And so from that perspective, the desire to get physical products immediately makes sense and would explain interest in brick-and-mortar.”

According to a 2023 report by the International Council of Shopping Centers, Gen Z prefers in-person shopping as much as online shopping. About 97% of survey respondents indicated they shop in brick-and-mortar stores; 95% said they buy online because of convenience.

Kristin Grove, senior vice president of national retail leasing at the global real estate firm JLL, said Gen Z is searching for community.

“Gen Z shoppers are bringing back the mall shopping center experience,” Kristin Grove, senior vice president of national retail leasing at the global real estate firm JLL, said. “They want a sense of community. They want to bridge the gap between the social media that they’re doing and meet and shop in-person.”

A 2022 report by the marketing agency CM Group, now Marigold, and retail consulting group F’inn found that 47% of Gen Z respondents preferred in-store shopping over any other generation. As pandemic restrictions have ended, some malls are revived by targeting teen shoppers who want more than just a place to spend money. According to Forbes, this includes a place to hang out, eat, and make friends — then there is the loneliness factor.

“There’s a lot of data showing that Gen Z is a particularly lonely generation and that it needs more social interactions,” Tully said. “[Gen Z] would benefit probably more so than other generations from going out and having those experiences in person.”

According to the ICSS report, about 70% of Gen Z’s survey participants said retail centers were fun places to hang out. A 2023 Coresight Research report reports that thriving malls are reinvesting in and renovating their spaces to meet the evolving needs of shoppers, according to the LA Times.

Grove said successful centers have brought in Gen Z-friendly brands, making them socially and environmentally conscious. Brands like Gentle Monster and Princess Polly have been hits with 16- to 26-year-olds.

“I think that’s all attributable to a really educated new generational shopper,” Grove said. “That’s the future.”