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Mall CEOs: Enough With The Doom And Gloom Already!



CEOs of leading shopping mall companies are proudly touting the good news surrounding the sector.
Westfield Mall

Stop us if you’ve heard these before. Brick and mortar retail is over. By extension, shopping malls are doomed. Beyond being incredibly played out narratives, they’re not steeped in reality. As CNBC shares, CEOs of leading shopping mall companies are as sick and tired of hearing about it as the rest of us, and they’re proudly touting the good news surrounding the sector. 

First up, Simon CEO David Simon had some things to get off of his chest during a recent conference call. 

"I think the retail community has been overly negative about the mall product," he said. "I don't know why they do it, but we're just going to get up off the mat [and] keep doing what we do. ... This isn't sugar coating. There is a limit to attracting eyeballs online that [e-retailers] can't get in the physical world."

Next up, Kimco CEO Conor Flynn hit similar notes during a recent earnings call. 

"I think it is fair to say that the debate surrounding the death of physical retail is over," Flynn said. "The Amazon-Whole Foods transaction, Alibaba's growing grocery concept in China, Wal-Mart's click-and-collect ... program integrated with Jet.com, and Target's flex format Express, all point to a vibrant, albeit different-looking retail real estate world."

Those are all fantastic points - but Flynn wasn’t quite done pointing out that the overall narrative is out of whack. 

"Physical retail has a large role to play in this effort to bring the best shopping experience for the customer, especially as retailers continue to explore different ways to overcome the last-mile challenge," Flynn continued. "Let's not forget that notwithstanding the changes and challenges that confront retail, off-price, grocery, home improvement, fitness, beauty and other service retailers continue to thrive in this environment." 

Finally, Macerich CEO Arthur Coppola called out the negative news for what it is. 

"There's been a daily, if not sometimes hourly, a barrage of headlines predicting the death of great retail locations," he said. "I share the pain with many of you when you look at those headlines, especially when you have the conviction that they are not accurate. ... I have absolutely no empathy for the shorts ... that are motivated, for their own reasons, to help create this fake news."

Those are some incredibly powerful assessments. While it may be easy to dismiss these calls as the talking points of those with a vested interest in things, there’s more to see here. There’s no denying that there have been some challenges in the retail sector, but that points to the pains of evolution more than anything else. Those same growing pains have been felt by the shopping mall industry, but scores of owners have adapted - and they’re thriving as a result. Warren Buffett, also known as the Oracle of Omaha, has always preached the importance of being greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy. We can easily use that little tip for the shopping mall industry these days.    

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