News & Opinion | August 10, 2020 12:14 pm

Amazon Reportedly in Talks With Simon to Use Vacant Mall Space for Fulfillment Centers

Who better to fill dead malls than their very own killer?

amazon fulfillment center
The mall! But make it an Amazon fulfillment center.
Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Remember stores? Neither do I. Anyway, since we don’t need them anymore now that we lead most of our lives on the internet, malls are left wondering what to do with all the vacant space once filled with physical products and the people who actually left their homes to buy them.

The answer, according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, may be Amazon fulfillment centers. Amazon is reportedly in talks with Simon Property Group regarding the possibility of converting some of its mall spaces into fulfillment centers for the massive e-retailer, which counts itself among very few businesses that have actually benefitted from the coronavirus pandemic.

However, these conversations between Simon and Amazon reportedly predate the pandemic, as malls were already looking to fill space left vacant by the ongoing decline of department stores. Massive 100,000-plus square-foot department stores were once the center of the mall’s business model, with smaller stores counting on customers drawn in by big-box retailers to trickle over.

That model has been upended as department stores struggle to compete with online retail, and the pandemic hasn’t helped. In recent months, brands like Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus have declared bankruptcy, while Nordstrom closed 16 stores. With malls in desperate need of tenants to fill the gaping space left behind, who better to step in and take over the empty carcasses of department stores than the company that played a large role in their demise in the first place? Enter, Jeff Bezos.

While an Amazon fulfillment center probably won’t help malls increase foot traffic to smaller retailers the way department stores did in their heyday, it’s an obviously better option for many landlords than simply letting the space sit vacant.

It remains unclear how many stores and which locations are under consideration, but a shiny new Amazon fulfillment center could be coming soon to a hollow mall carcass near you.

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