The Struggle to Fill Abandoned Anchor Stores

With Macy’s announcing the next round of stores they will be closing as part of their massive restructuring and Sears Holdings announcing the demise of several Sears and Kmart locations, it is obvious that in today’s retail apocalypse, that it will be extremely difficult, if not, impossible to fill these massive anchor stores with suitable tenants.

In general, many retail stores are struggling.  However this is very obvious with giant department stores, which have lost a great deal of their individual charm.  Shopping habits have changed dramatically in recent years, and these anchor tenants are shuttering far faster than they are expanding.

Since so many of these anchor spaces are becoming large and dangerous abandoned eyesores, malls are starting to find creative ways to fill the space.  I have listed below 5 ways malls have been utilizing the dead space.

Smaller Retail Space (aka Mallception)

Some malls are converting their empty anchors into malls within malls, by splitting the available space into small shops.  This has been met with varying levels of success.  After Lord and Taylor closed at White Marsh Mall, the escalators were eliminated and the space was split into two separate stores.  The bottom level became a Macy’s Home Store, while the upper level was turned into a Sports Authority (now a Dave and Buster’s) and remain occupied.  However, when JCPenney closed at Security Square Mall, it was turned into Seoul Plaza, and is struggling to maintain tenants.


Once upon a time, the idea of seeing a gym inside of a shopping mall was considered moronic.  However, many malls are now embracing gyms as they will easily fill up large storefronts.

Large Server Rooms/Data Centers

I’m not the most technically savvy guy in the world, but I do know that maintaining a server room requires a lot of space.  AiNET claimed the three store former Macy’s/Boscov’s store at Marley Station, and converted it into a large server space.


Where a JCPenney once stood at Natick Mall, a Wegman’s is slated to open in the mall in 2018, occupying both floors and undergoing a pretty spectacular facelift.  This store is likely to bring hundreds of new jobs to the mall, and be the fifth Wegman’s to open in MA.

Eliminating the Building

When it’s not possible to replace an anchor store, demolish the building and pretend it never happened.  When Sears folded up shop at Owings Mills Mall in 2001, the store sat vacant for a short time before it was demolished and turned into a new mall entrance, giving the dead wing new life, even if it was only temporary.

Featured Image by Will Fisher.


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