Gen Z Is Making the Mall Cool Again

They're still on their phones, they just want to be on their phones in the mall

gen z mall
Story, Macy's new store-in-store / Insta-friendly Gen-Z bait.
(Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy's)

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The teens have spoken: the mall is back.

At a time when it’s never been easier to have any product purchased and delivered to your door with the touch of a finger, Gen Z is shirking the ease of online shopping in favor of going to the mall.

Malls in the U.S. have long been on the decline thanks largely to the internet, but now Gen Z — the world’s youngest and most tech-savvy generation is ushering in a surprising new era of mall popularity. According to a recent International Council of Shopping Centers study, 95 percent of Gen Z-aged individuals visited a mall during a three-month period in 2018, compared to only 75 percent of millennials and just 58 percent of Gen X.

While the recent downfall of former shopping mall mainstays like Charlotte Russe and Wet Seal may seem to signal the death of teen mall culture, the numbers suggest today’s teens actually value a brick and mortar shopping experience even more than their millennial and Gen X predecessors — they’re just approaching it differently.

According to Bloomberg, the resurgence in mall popularity among today’s generation of teens reflects a shift in the way they’re engaging with stores, and successful retailers are responding accordingly.

Top brands have found ways to use phones — previously one of the main antagonists of brick and mortar establishments — to draw customers into the store. Forever 21, consistently ranked among the top U.S. retailers for teens, offers customers a discount for posting a picture of themselves in a Forever 21 outfit and showing the photo to a cashier at checkout. 

Savvy retailers are also striving to make their stores more Insta-worthy in an attempt to become the backdrop of teen customers’ latest posts, Bloomberg reported. Earlier this month, Macy’s rolled out “Story,” a vibrant, themed store-in-store / Gen Z trap in 36 locations.

While the internet has long spelled death for American shopping malls, physical retailers have finally figured out that the way to a teen’s wallet has been through their phone all along.

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