Three of the biggest stores at The Empire Mall, Younkers, Sears and Toys ‘R’ Us, will soon be closing.
Other national chains that have locations at the mall are also struggling, including the parent company of Lids and Journeys.
What’s in the future for The Empire?
Abby Heiser used to spend plenty of time at The Empire Mall growing up.
“Lots of memories,” Heiser said.
Now when the Sioux Falls native comes back to town she prefers checking out the downtown area.
“Because it seems like it’s growing so much, and there are a lot of cool local shops here,” Heiser said.
That’s a trend across the country, as malls deal with a decline in traffic.
“We want to have more options. We want more entertainment. We want museums. We want art shows. We want fashion shows,” Augustana Business Professor Jaciel Keltgen said.
If malls can adjust to these changing times in retail and do things, such as add artwork and entertainment, Keltgen says they’re definitely not dead.
“I don’t see malls going away. They’re just going to have to reenvision what they can do and what they can offer and what consumers are asking for,” Keltgen said.
Keltgen predicts that some of the larger spaces at The Empire Mall will be broken into more, smaller spots.
While the mall’s parent company, Simon, hasn’t announced its Sioux Falls plans yet, it’s turning former Sears spots across the country into a mix of stores, gyms, restaurants and even apartments.
“I think that’s a really smart option because the live/work/play buildings and environments have really done well,” Keltgen said.
Options that could send shoppers like Heiser back to the mall.
“I definitely like more of an experience,” Heiser said.
Toys ‘R’ Us will be the first of the three stores to shut its doors–next week.
Younkers won’t be open past August 31st.
Meanwhile, the Sioux Falls Sears Auto Center will be closing in late June, and the store is expected to shut down by early September.