Shifting consumer dynamics are forcing the Mall of Louisiana to reinvent itself
The Mall of Louisiana, the jewel of Baton Rouge retail less than a decade ago, now finds itself in need of a reinvention to keep the sprawling complex relevant to shoppers, local real estate experts say.
“There is definitely a trend away from the indoor, climate-controlled malls,” says Michael Budden, Benjamin Jones professor of retail marketing at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Budden and others predict that about half of the nation’s roughly 1,000 indoor malls will be gone in five years.
One highly visible site on the northeast corner of the Mall of Louisiana illustrates just how quickly things are changing. The spot used to house an H. H. Gregg electronics store. Now the site houses Main Event, an entertainment center dotted with big-screen TV’s, a bar and restaurant, and an endless array of arcade games. Kids pay $17.99 for an hour of bowling and two slices of pizza, and adults can book the place for three hours of corporate events, “team bonding” or happy hour.
“These mall owners are having to shift to entertainment experiences, anything to keep people at the mall for a longer amount of time,” says Dex Shill, commercial sales and leasing agent for Latter and Blum.
Mark B. Hebert, president of Kurz & Hebert Commercial Real Estate and a veteran of 40 years in the business, agrees that malls face a rocky future. “They are either going to be prisons or pickleball courts,” he says with a laugh.
But jokes aside, malls are being squeezed on multiple fronts, he says. Rising interest rates means tighter credit that will keep mom and pop stores from backfilling empty spaces.
However, the Mall of Louisiana, which opened in 1997 with 180 stores over 1.5 million square feet, still has its advantages, even as it must transform to keep up with the times.