We all knew the closing of the Sears store at the Lima Mall was coming. Walk inside it during the week and you would find more clerks than customers … and there weren’t a lot of clerks.
Still, it hurts to face the reality that come September, the once giant retailer will no longer be part of this city.
One of the questions people are asking today is what does this mean for the Lima Mall. It now has lost two of its four anchor stores with Macy’s and JCPenney the two left standing.
It’s no secret shopping malls are struggling in this new consumer world of click it and buy it. Last month retail analyst Jan Kniffen told CNBC that a third of American malls currently in existence will eventually disappear.
If he’s right, how does Lima make sure its mall is among the two-thirds that survive? That’s a question that currently is being addressed by economic development leaders. They realize a city without a thriving retail base is like a plant without water. It lacks a major component for growth.
It’s no secret the Lima Mall is in dramatic need of a total makeover. Look at photographs of the mall when it opened in 1965 and you’ll see a facade that is pretty much the same as today’s. The good news is the mall has new owners – the Washington Prime Group, a spin-off from Simon Properties – that have embraced the need for change.
How that all shakes out could be exciting.
It involves thinking differently about the experiences people want to have when they go offline and venture outside their homes to shop. Today’s shoppers are looking for a destination point — one that not only offers stores with quality merchandise and standout service — but an experience that is appealing and fun.
The Easton and Polaris centers in Columbus and The Greene Town Center in Dayton are such examples. They have figured out how to make it work by combining great shopping with lifestyle and guest experiences such as dining, fashion, leisure and entertainment.
The Lima Mall can prosper by finding its own special magnet that connects retailers with consumers.
There is no reason a shopping center has to be facing extinction in today’s rapidly evolving retail landscape.