Would you go to a mall for groceries? Some grocery chains are taking another look at malls. Lidl, The Fresh Market, Wegmans, and Whole Foods are taking space that has been, in some cases, vacated by department stores.
Last year Wegmans opened a 146,500-square-foot store in a space formerly occupied by JCPenney in the Natick Mall, outside Boston.
Grocery stores are drawn to malls by their high visibility and destination locations, and by enticements from landlords only too pleased to receive rents higher than they got from department-store anchors.
In 2017 Sears was paying an average rent of $4.40 per square foot to landlord Seritage Growth Properties, while other tenants were paying $12.74 per square foot.
Mall landlords are attracted by the steady shopper traffic that grocery stores draw and by the fact that some 80 percent of food shoppers do their shopping in stores.
Grocery stores, for their part, like the prospect of urban locations with access to parking that the malls provide.
Discount grocer Lidl opened a 36,000-square-foot store in New York City’s Staten Island Mall in December.
Malls offer patrons a different kind of shopping than that of the open-air centers that traditionally contain grocery stores; people go to malls for higher-priced wares on less-frequent shopping trips, rather than for daily needs.
Special provisions, such as a pick-up area, would ensure that groceries can be stored and then picked up easily so that customers would not have to be lugging them round the mall.