February 7, 2023

Obarbas

Youth trendy style

Neshaminy, Oxford Valley malls struggle as luxury shopping flourishes

Betty and Phil Scheiber enjoy quiet afternoon walks through the air-conditioned corridors of the nearby Oxford Valley Mall.

After a year of mask mandates and social distancing, the retired couple from Middletown thought all malls were struggling like Oxford Valley, with two boxed-up and shuttered anchor department stores, two vacant food court restaurants, and 16 other smaller retail locations closed.

Then, they took a trip to King of Prussia Mall in neighboring Montgomery County. “I was in awe,” Betty said. “My mouth nearly hit the floor.”

She waited 40 minutes in a line that stretched around the Gucci store at King of Prussia. Phil got through four chapters of the latest David McCullough biography while sitting amid the orchids and metallic art installations outside the Louis Vuitton.

Such is the story of Philadelphia-area malls.

Higher-end shopping enclaves such as the Cherry Hill, Christiana, and King of Prussia malls are flourishing. Some other malls that cater to lower- and middle-income shoppers are struggling and are very likely to shut down in the next five years, retail analysts predict.

Willow Grove Park Mall currently has 13 empty stores.

At Montgomery Mall, 28 stores and five restaurants in the food court are unoccupied.

Neshaminy Mall has 32 closed stores, one vacancy in the food court, and an empty restaurant space beside its movie theater.

Retail analysts predict hundreds of suburban shopping malls could close in coming years. At Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem, multiple storefronts are vacant.

“The pandemic sped up the death of malls, and the deaths of those malls will promote the other higher-end malls because you won’t have that dilution of the market,” said Beth Azcor, a commercial real estate adviser and investor who owns and manages six shopping centers in Florida.

We simply have too much retail, analysts say. 

“When we need one of something, developers build 10 of them,” Azcor continued. “We have about 1,000 malls in our country. We probably need about 700 of them. Some 300 will close in the next five years.”