VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Shopping habits continue to change raising questions about what the future of malls in our area may look like.

10 On Your Side spoke to business experts, developers and shoppers to get a better idea of how malls are changing to meet consumer demands and shopping habits.

Change is already in the air at some of our local malls, some good and some not so good.

One thing that hasn’t changed is shoppers, like Gaige Cook who was visiting from Japan, enjoying an afternoon stroll around the mall.

“I would definitely go around to walk around. Just kind of, kill some time,” he said. “Might see something that catches my eye. I don’t really like to just have my mind fixated on one simple thing. I like to just go around and have an open mind.”

Lauren Casey from Virginia Beach says malls are a great place for her to walk around, or even get food, with her little one.

But she’s not as eager to go out and shop.

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“Once I became a parent, priorities changed,” she said. “Unless there’s a pretty specific store in the mall that’s related to, like, baby care, I’m probably not going to get anything.”

Fewer people may be putting items in their physical carts than their virtual ones and storefronts may sit empty, but experts say malls aren’t dying – they’re facing new challenges.

Associate Dean and Professor of Marketing Kiran Karande of the Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University says malls aren’t dying, they’re just changing.

“That’s something that I think will lead to a transformation,” he said. “The way the malls are right now might not be what we see in the future.”

Karande says malls need to confront changes in consumer shopping habits, including value-conscious consumers who want more than retail options.

“Think about a mix that includes things such as hotels, things like an apartment complex,” he said.

Overall, he says malls need more diverse experiences than shopping to appeal to consumers.

“The nature of malls will change. Malls will change from being a shopping place to more than a shopping place. An experience place,” said Karande.

Shoppers who spoke to 10 On Your Side agree.

“It wouldn’t just be a corporate, sort of, here’s where you can dump all of your money in our pockets,” said Casey. “It’ll be a little bit more of a communal experience.”

Changes are on the horizon at Pembroke Mall with the mall slated to close for a number of major changes by the end of January 2022.

Ramsay Smith with Asset Management at Pembroke Mall says it’s all with the mindset of creating a modern town square.

“People want to be out. People want to be out with other people. They want to be fed now. They want to be entertained. They want to touch and feel the product actually,” he said.

As we previously reported, the mall will be converted into a mixed-use facility in order to bring in more diverse demographics to appeal to.

“Senior living, there’s a demand for that at this point. Multi-family, there’s a huge housing demand right now. Hotel, actually, people are wanting to get out,” said Smith. “After COVID, they’re traveling more.” 

The new designs would also move current indoor spaces outside to create an event lawn for the community. The changes would transform malls from retail hubs into community gathering spots.

“We’re trying to make Pembroke Mall more of a place-making event for the community.”

Patrick Henry Mall told us they broke sales and traffic records in 2021. In a statement, mall management said:

“Patrick Henry Mall has seen the most robust return of traffic in our entire portfolio – exceeding even 2029 by 25% during the holiday season and by 13% for the entire year of 2021.  And this traffic is translating into great sales for our tenants – for the Rolling 12 month period ended November 30, 2021, sales at Patrick Henry for comparable tenants were up over 20% compared to the pre-pandemic Rolling 12 sales ended November 30, 2019.   Further, the mall is 97% occupied!”

Heather Crowell, EVP Strategy & Communications, PREIT

It may seem like malls are dying, but in reality, many are in different stages of change.