Do Malls Still Matter? They Do To Millennial Women, eMarketer Finds

Millennial women were more likely to visit malls first when looking for new clothing than to search for it on a brand’s site or apps, on Instagram, or even on Amazon or Google, according to a research roundup by eMarketer.

Even during the heyday of the American mall in the 1980s, the criticism of endless acres of enclosed shopping spaces invited all kinds of critiques, from the “soullessness” of moving away from Main St. on to today, when these structures began be seen as slow and inefficient compared to e-commerce shopping.

While the “death of malls” may be the prevailing view, eMarketer has pointed to several recent studies that suggest huge shopping centers still have a key constituency: Millennial women.

The most notable finding — and one that flies in the face of the widely accepted notion that most people, and Millennials especially, start their searches for apparel along with other products on mobile — is that about a third of Millennial women start their search at the mall, nearly two-thirds prefer to make purchases in-store.

The research points to a November 2017 survey of 500 U.S. Millennials from Dealspotr, a social shopping network, that found 37 percent of Millennial women started their search for new clothing and apparel at the mall.

“In fact, millennial women were more likely to visit malls first when looking for new clothing than to search for it on a brand’s site or apps, on Instagram, or even on Amazon or Google,” eMarketer concludes.

To buttress its thesis, eMarketer also highlighted a July 2017 study from SmarterHQ that said roughly 50 percent of Millennials said they preferred to shop in-store. The study also found that women tend to prefer shopping in stores 9 percent more often than men.

“In the age of the smartphone camera, being in-store enables a hybrid real-world-plus-digital-world experience, in which the women take photos of themselves in various clothing and send them to friends who are elsewhere to solicit their opinions,” said Mark Dolliver, senior analyst at eMarketer.


Still not convinced about the viability of malls with a key demo? eMarketer has more, such as another November 2017 survey by Roth Capital Partners, which found a large share (62.7 percent) of Millennials—of both genders, in this poll’s case—would rather buy in physical stores.

As we ourselves often note, roughly 90 percent of shopping is done at brick-and-mortar locations. While most of that number refers to food and grocery shopping, it’s worth noting that while Amazon’s e-commerce gravitational pull is great, it’s share of retail in 2017 was still a mere 4 percent, according to OneClick Retail.

So while there has been a definite “over-storing crisis,” which is being rectified by shrinking the number and size of stores, it also seems clear that the tactile, immediate needs that malls provide still has a real hold, if to a somewhat lesser extent, on younger women just as these spaces did when Fast Times At Ridgemont High was released in 1982.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.