METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - National headlines blare news about the decline of brick-and-mortar retail stores. Major chains have announced scores of closures in some cases and that is affecting the number of retail jobs. Still, a local mall is bucking the negative trend.
"We've decided to put soft seating throughout the mall as part of our remodel project," said Tricia Phillpott, Lakeside Mall's Assistant General Manager as she pointed out upgrades in the mall.
In fact, a $10-million renovation is underway at the Metairie shopping center.
"There used to be changes in the elevation of the ceiling and so we've blown that out and we've added skylights throughout the center," continued Phillpott.
New stores have opened. Others are on the way.
"Zara will be a 35,000 square foot store, they will go in the Express space and we will actually have to put a second floor on that space to accommodate the size of the store, so we're excited. It will be the first Zara, in the state of Louisiana," Phillpott stated.
"There are definitely some brick and mortar stores that are doing quite well and some malls that are doing well, as well," said Prof. John Healy, who teaches marketing in Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business.
Lakeside is thriving at a time when the news about some other malls and stores is grim.
"Especially department stores have had big problems, I know Macy's is down-sizing, Sears is significantly down-sizing, J.C. Penny is significantly down-sizing and obviously a lot of that has to do with customer behavior shifting. They're moving to online purchasing a lot more often," Healy stated.
He said given the surge in online shopping traditional retail jobs have taken a hit.
"It's a big problem now. I think every month this year so far we've seen a decrease in the number of retail jobs actually, including this month it was about 6,000 jobs this past month, nationwide and so that's definitely a big concern and a couple of things are going on here. One the store closures are having a big effect, another is that you're seeing an increase in technology that is also having a big effect where stores are starting to automate some of their technology, using kiosks," said Healy.
He said retail job losses have not gotten the same level of media attention as some other industries.
"The job losses are maybe less concentrated than in some other industries that I think get a lot more coverage for losing employment and so there isn't one area in particular that gets decimated by retail stores leaving, but the impact of the retail stores closing down or using less employees has actually been far greater than some of these other industries," said Healy.
Phillpott said despite what may be happening elsewhere hiring is healthy there and the mall has a bright future.
"Brick and mortar retailing is changing and we feel like we're well positioned to withstand the change," she said.
"There still are going to be brick and mortar retail stores, I think over the long term. I'm less sure of that, but over the short term there's definitely going to be but I think that the footprint is going to shrink. Instead of having two or three major retail malls or retail shopping centers, maybe you need only one in an area now," said Healy.
A new restaurant, Fleming's Steakhouse is also under construction in the mall's parking area.