We all know online shopping seems to be the way of the future and many believe it is also the reason for the decline of shopping malls, but the reality is, they are phasing out for a variety of reasons.


Malls were once a go-to shopping destination and a teenager’s hang-out of choice, but now as their biggest tenants lay off employees or even leave for good retail experts say there are a bunch of reasons why mall stores can’t cut it anymore including: changing consumer tastes, demographic shifts and technological advances just to name a few.

Looking at the numbers… 

Retailers blame e-commerce’s growth, even though it actually accounts for a small percentage of shopping in Canada. In December 2017, e-commerce accounted for nearly $1.9 billion or 3.4 per cent of total retail sales in the country, according to Statistic Canada, suggesting annual growth of about four per cent from 2016.

Specialty and Discount Stores…

While the online phenomenon has eaten into the bottom line of brick-and-mortar store chains, the rise of specialty retailers — such as stand alone stores for brands such as Hunter boots and Canada Goose jackets — and discount stores, including Walmart and Dollarama, are another big factor that are taking shoppers away from former Canadian mall stores like once huge retailer Sears.


Technological advances have replaced or diminished consumer desire for certain products.  For example, hgher-quality smart phone cameras, have changed up the market place and as a result, fewer consumers want traditional cameras, hitting photography-centric stores hard (like Blacks Photography which closed its 59 Canadian stores).

Delivery Services Have Expanded…

An increase in delivery services has weakened demand for bricks-and-mortar space.  It has gotten to the point that free shipping and delivery that is super quick has overtaken the need for picking something up at a store.

Real Estate…

It’s also possible that Canada simply has built up too much real estate devoted to retail, especially when you do a comparison to other countries. The country has 94 square metres of retail space for every 100 people, according to data from the Shopping Centre Council of Australia, far more than the United Kingdom — at 44 square metres — and Germany — at 22 square metres. With the closure of anchor tenants such as Sears Canada — as well as entire shopping centres — Canada could be approaching more appropriate levels for a country with a comparatively small population.


Millennials, the age bracket defined as being born in the 1980s and 90s, are really important to retailers, but some of them cannot get the attention of the tech-savvy generation.

Further, millennials don’t gravitate to owning a car as much as previous generations so they are less likely to drive to a mall, resulting in more online shopping or  stores that are close by.

Millennials will also ignore stores that don’t cater to the experiences they want, say retail analysts which is part of a trend in consumer preferences that have forced mall planners and retailers to reinvent their spaces to attract shoppers.

Yorkdale Mall Switch Up


Toronto’s Yorkdale mall is highlighted is one mall  experts say, that has found some success with re working itself.

Yorkdale features high-end shops and corresponding services, like personal styling. It has tons of food offerings — which draw in shoppers and keep them inside longer (think Canada’s first Cheesecake Factory)!

The mall also generates buzz with Instagram-worthy events.

In other words that mall has successfully it seems moved on with the trends and the strategy seems to be paying off, as Yorkdale leads Canada’s malls in sales per square footage, according to the Retail Council of Canada.

What Yorkdale has done may not be a viable option for smaller malls however as this strategy is costly.

What is the Future?

Experts say the future for most malls will that they will have to reinvent themselves.  This could be more, smaller specialty stores, moving away from the big anchor tenants.  It also could mean more of a mixed use for malls (gyms, dentists, condos) to fill up the space.

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