Malls

Andrew Yang Is Wrong About Shopping Malls and Amazon

Yang wants to bail out malls that are struggling to compete with online retailers, but Amazon is already putting some of those dead retail spaces to better use.

|

At the second round of Democratic debates, entrepreneur Andrew Yang criticized Amazon, accusing the online retail giant of "closing 30 percent of American malls and stores." Yang has a plan to protect dying malls, proposing to direct $6 billion to prop up struggling shopping centers.

But one company is already repurposing many of those suburban behemoths: Amazon. 

In North Randall, Ohio, in 2017, Amazon bought an abandoned building that once had been the largest mall in the world, and repurposed it as a fulfillment center. The move brought 2,000 new jobs to the city, and it put the massive, decrepit building back to good use. As a local Ohio official told The Wall Street Journal, in a report about Amazon's moves to repurpose old malls around Ohio, turning the dead malls into distribution hubs helps lift local property tax revenue as well. Nationwide, there have been at least 23 former brick-and-mortar retail spaces repurposed for industrial uses since 2016, the Journal reports.

As Daniel Laboe notes in Yahoo Finance, "dead malls" are particularly well-suited to become distribution centers. They're usually located near highways, making it easy for Amazon to move products from them to the final customer's home. The new ownership also puts the infrastructure associated with these old malls, from roads to sewage systems to electrical lines, back to work, rather than letting it rot in waste.

Malls might have some nostalgic appeal, but their replacement is just another example of creative destruction at work. The introduction of Sears' mail-order catalogues challenged mom-and-pop businesses around the turn of the century, and the catalogues were subsequently challenged by big chain stores like Woolworth and A&P. Big box retailers in shopping malls were the villains to scrappy mom-and-pop businesses in the '80s, and now they're the ones looking for a bailout. 

The fact is, it doesn't make sense to try to push consumers back to an old shopping model. At this point, more people seem to prefer shopping online. Amazon's plan to repurpose dead shopping malls saves resources, broadens local tax bases, and creates jobs in distressed communities.

It's not without precedent, either. The fate of these old malls is reminiscent of the fate of Sears' old distribution centers, many of which have been transformed into offices and new retail locations. 

Yang needn't worry. Dying malls don't need saving, and the market can handle it. 

NEXT: The Senate Will Vote on a $2.7 Trillion Budget Deal That Adds to the National Debt. The Democrats' Debates Ignored It.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Did a retard write this article? You completely missed the point of his argument. The many various levels of retail jobs are now gone and being replaced by overworked\underpaid positions. You’re a clown and should have your keyboard taken away.

    1. Well, I know a retard wrote this ^ comment.
      Fuck off, slaver.

    2. Because “traditional” retail positions are never overworked or underpaid. Amazon’s $15/hr is nothing compared to what big box cashiers traditionally make

      1. Regional / District Managers
        Loss Prevention
        Store Managers
        Assistant Managers
        Merchandisers
        Creative Directors
        & many many more.

        You guys don’t know what you’re talking about.

        1. Businesses exist in order to fulfill the wants of consumers, not to provide jobs for workers.

          Be careful who you criticize for not knowing what they’re talking about.

          1. Clearly missing the point.
            Yes, business has evolved.
            Yes, Amazon offers a convenient service at a more-desirable price for consumers.
            Andrew Yang’s quote is still valid whether they transform the dead space.. the point is Amazon is crushing it’s competition. It’s really that simple.

            1. You think Amazon should stop competing because they’re doing such a good job of satisfying customer demands? Or what?

              1. No one is saying that. Yang is not a luddite.

                1. “No one is saying that.”
                  Wrong. kadett is implying that.

                  “Yang is not a luddite.”
                  No, he’s a run of the mill idiot who thinks every problem can be solved with enough taxpayer money.

            2. No, we get the point, we just don’t agree that we should be propping up outdated business models that consumers don’t want anymore

            3. kadett
              August.1.2019 at 11:42 am
              “.. the point is Amazon is crushing it’s competition.”

              Yes, and to those of us who are capable of rational consideration, that means the customers prefer them.
              Fuck off, slaver.

            4. You DO realize, extremely stupid person, that Amazon isn’t JUST a reseller/fulfiller?

        2. Because Amazon has no management infrastructure?

          Also, some of those job you list never paid well to begin with. In my experience asst managers and loss prevention rarely make more than a dollar or two more per hour than the minimum wage entry level positions

        3. kadett
          August.1.2019 at 11:33 am
          “…You guys don’t know what you’re talking about.”

          Is projection a symptom of proggie brain disease or a cause of it?

        4. You left out buggy whip repairmen.

        5. Ooooh, here’s someone who doesn’t know that jobs are a cost, not a benefit.

          Otherwise, think of how many jobs we could have if there were just more positions mandated. Loss Prevention jobs broken up into multiple tiers – Loss Prevention Specialist First Class Jo Blow reporting in! Assistant to the Assistant Manager. Things like that.

          Best part, if they’re legally mandated then it doesn’t matter – Amazon will still have to have them and pay people in those positions even if they do nothing. Just like the railroads did with Firemen when they shifted over to diesels.

          Oh, and think of how well the economy could be doing if we simply outlawed efficiency. No more machine reading of x-rays. Ditches dug with shovels, not backhoes. We’d be so much richer with all those people employed instead of machines1!!

          1. “Ditches dug with shovels…”

            You got a problem with spoons. or what?

        6. Transportation Manager
          Warehouse Manager
          IT Manager
          Human Resources
          Facility Maintenance
          Fleet Manager

          There are comparable positions regardless of use.

    3. Wait, retail store workers were well paid?

      1. And well treated too.

    4. “The many various levels of retail jobs are now gone and being replaced by overworked\underpaid positions.”

      Many of those retailers have websites of their own where you can order merchandise to be delivered to you, eliminating the need to go to their store. How is this any different from what Amazon is doing?

    5. Go be a luddite somewhere else. Stalling progress and prolonging the inevitable is so 17th century guilds. At least you aren’t destroying technology and murdering inventors!

      I don’t go to malls because:
      1. Poor selection
      2. Lower quality

      I go to malls because:
      1. Indoor walking during excessive heat
      2. Chick fil A or Taco Bell
      3. When I know a store has something and it’s cheaper than paying shipping

      1. People don’t understand why things are the way they are.

        We went to malls because they had better selection and higher quality – than the little local stores that were the option. Malls came to dominate because they better gave people what they wanted back then and that drove the independent stores out.

        Now, online purchasing is doing to malls what malls did to small stores. And I’m ok with it. FFS, I live in Yuma, AZ. This place would have been unbearable to me in the 1990’s. Now its great. The only real difference is that, now, in living here, I don’t have to forgo access to consumer goods. I have access to anything that anyone living in a proper city does – I just might have to wait a week to get it.

        1. I remember in the 80s and the 90s when everyone bitched about how Malls were hurting America, now they must be preserved at all costs.

          Reagan’s quip never ceases to amaze me.

          If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it, if it stops moving, subsidize it.

    6. Amusingly enough – that’s the same exact argument that was used when malls started displacing ‘mom and pop’ and ‘high street’ stores.

      So, instead of supporting malls, you should be railing against them for the ‘many various levels of retail jobs’ THAT THEY DESTROYED.

      You should not be calling for subsidies for malls, you should be calling for reparations for all the businesses destroyed in the 1980’s by them.

    7. Hey there! Yang supporter here. Just wanted to say that if you’re also a supporter, let’s not call people retard on behalf of the campaign – it’s not a super good look, and not really the vibe we’re going for. Appreciate the work you’re putting in, though!

      1. Fuck off, slaver.

  2. “At the second round of Democratic debates, entrepreneur Andrew Yang criticized Amazon, accusing the online retail giant of “closing 30 percent of American malls and stores.””

    Well, Amazon sure put my local buggy-whip distributor out of business!

    1. Regional / District Managers
      Loss Prevention
      Store Managers
      Assistant Managers
      Merchandisers
      Creative Directors
      & many many more.

      You guys don’t know what you’re talking about.

      1. Paying all those people made the products more expensive.

      2. “…You guys don’t know what you’re talking about.”

        Is projection a symptom of proggie brain disease or a cause of it?

      3. BTW, this one is REALLY good!

        “Loss Prevention”

        Yep, the customer should pay to prevent people from stealing the merch!

        1. But Sevo, who will cry for superfluous middle management?

        2. “Drop in petty crime costs jobs, Andrew Yang and kadett call for more theft”

        3. In my retail days – Mervyn’s circa 1978 – losses due to employee theft were estimated at 15% of merchandise cost. That was more than twice the loss attributed to customer theft,

      4. Yes Amazon has none of those…

    2. Hey, Yang supporter here – so I don’t think that Yang was necessarily criticizing Amazon, he was just stating the fact that other retailers can’t compete with them, so they have to close. For better or for worse.
      The Yang campaign is super pro-free-market. It’s just that we acknowledge that things are a bit different this time around. Jobs are not getting created at nearly the same rate at which they’re getting destroyed. Retraining won’t work, there simply aren’t enough positions available. I mean, that’s the whole point of automation, right? Replace ten jobs with one.
      The era of giant companies having correspondingly giant workforces is over. Going forward, we’re going to have to encourage entrepreneurship and grow communities from the bottom up.

      1. More than half of sales on Amazon.com are by 3rd party resellers. Most of these are small sellers, less than $1m/year in revenues — you know, entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops, free market types. Amazon’s fulfillment center is analogous to the mall space lessor: provide the product storage space and the retail traffic. Resellers are analogous to the stores: a few large, anchor shops and a bunch of small, specialty stores. Only, the small stores are now even more specialized and the offerings even more tailored to their buyers. I don’t see what’s wrong with this model.

      2. “The Yang campaign is super pro-free-market. It’s just that we acknowledge that things are a bit different this time around.”

        Just like people are really for free speech, but…
        No, you’re not pro-free-market; you’re a lying slaver.
        Fuck off.

  3. At the second round of Democratic debates, entrepreneur Andrew Yang criticized Amazon, accusing the online retail giant of “closing 30 percent of American malls and stores.”

    Wrong. Amazon’s customers closed 30 percent (assuming this is an accurate figure) of American malls and stores. If people preferred malls and stores over Amazon, they’d go there instead of ordering online.

    1. “Wrong. Amazon’s customers closed 30 percent (assuming this is an accurate figure) of American malls and stores. If people preferred malls and stores over Amazon, they’d go there instead of ordering online.”

      This is the same blindness which claims all those evil business people are making all that profit!
      Wrong: It’s your retirement fund which is making all that profit.

  4. It might be more helpful to ask why people don’t want to go to malls anymore. Hint: it doesn’t have anything to do with Amazon.

    1. *** scratches head ***

      Because people don’t get shot (only hacked) shopping online?

      1. Sadly, more true than we’d like to believe.

  5. The headline could have saved reading the article by just saying
    “Andrew Yang is wrong”

  6. We have also placed many malls that are closed because of e-commerce. That is why from now on we try to pursue an online business (Azhima because selling at the Mall is already impossible.

  7. The mall in the suburban town I used to live in was dying long before Amazon became a powerhouse.

    It was already in a rather weak condition before 2005 because the town was expanding westwards (the only direction it could expand) and a bunch of new shopping opened near the new construction.
    Its death spiral really took off in 2008 when about half its remaining small shops closed up for obvious reasons. It never ended up recovering.

    The movie theater and one anchor store are all that remain despite multiple attempts by the city to prop it up.

    1. And that’s almost exactly how it went in my suburban hometown as well.

    2. Big Boxes and the last two recessions really did more damage to malls than Amazon. Starting in the 90s, you could get stuff at the Big Box stores for a few bucks less than at the mall stores, so people decided that the relative inconvenience of driving from store to store was worth the overall money saved.

      The 2001 and 2008 recessions also nuked or otherwise debilitated a lot of anchor businesses that the malls relied on to drive traffic. Montgomery Ward and Mervyn’s spring most immediately to mind. Sears has essentially been a zombie for the last 10-15 years.

      Another factor was changing neighborhood demographics. Most malls were built to appeal to a mass market of younger middle class families, specifically targeting the late Boomers and early Gen-Xers as they entered adulthood. This worked for a while as the Boomers advanced in their careers and had kids. After these families grew older and their kids aged out and moved elsewhere, they found other shopping options. The new trend nowadays seems to be these outdoor “lifestyle centers” with pretentious names (“The Market at La Cucaracha” or something equally silly) that are basically glorified strip malls.

      1. With that said, there are still quite a few malls that remain viable or have been revived in some form, but it takes a lot of deliberate, targeted attention by the mall owners, city governments and the Chamber of Commerce to do so. It’s usually easier for the mall owner to just sell out to someone with redevelopment or demolition plans.

  8. South Park already covered this.

    1. “Simpsons did it!”

      1. exactly. now they’re them.

  9. How to Go Out of Business

    Bottom Line
    My bottom line is that a business has what I need when I need it. Their bottom line doesn’t count. They’re in business to serve me, not the other way around, and if they can’t or won’t serve me, I see no reason to help them stay in business. If you don’t satisfy my bottom line, you don’t get to have a bottom line yourself.

  10. The problem with Yang is he’s good at identifying problems, but kind of terrible at solutions.

    1. Maybe Trump will make Yang Problem-Identification Czar?

    2. He’s not even good at identifying problems.

      So far

      Automation

      Amazon

      Medical care costs

      Social Media

      In that list he’s correctly identified something that is a problem once.

      1. I’m talking about his less specific stuff. Like his discussion of the rise in suicide rates in lower income males– the fact that people moving for a job or career are at all-time lows. But I agree, I don’t buy into the bogeymen.

        I will say that Automation is a problem, but it’s a problem that corrects over time. But this is where I’m becoming more amenable to the left: What do we do with those disrupted in the near term?

        1. The same as we’ve done for coal, steel and middle management.

          Evolution occurs outside of nature and procreation.

          One must change or die. The best we can do is teach our youngsters that in the first place.

        2. What we’ve seen is that if you do anything for those disrupted in the near term, they remain disrupted for the long term.

          Everytime ‘we’ve’ (and be ‘we’ve’ I mean ‘government’) done anything, all its done is incentivize people to sit on their arses and collect a check from the government.

          If you’re worried about short term disruption effects – then I would say go find some of those people YOU can see have been disrupted and give them some direct help. Since its your own money – and represents a loss of opportunity for yourself – you won’t be incentivized to keep giving them money even if they don’t get themselves back together.

        3. “I will say that Automation is a problem,…”

          Yeah, let’s raise the M/W to $30/hr and make it a real problem.
          Automation is a problem caused by the government; more government isn’t gonna fix it.

          “What do we do with those disrupted in the near term?”
          Quit using the government to put them in distress.

    3. The even bigger problem is that he’s clearly in the top 5 most sensible democrat candidates.

  11. Interesting how the change in sales tax laws now removes a barrier to Amazon having distribution centers closer to the customers.

    This will improve service, cut delivery times and probably drive more business to amazon despite the sales tax.

  12. What happened to kadett? Did he leave to go to the mall before it shuts down?

  13. Fuck bailouts and fuck Yang.
    If this shitbag wants to bailout malls, then fine.
    He can do it out of his own pocket, not ours.
    What is it with the republicans and democrats that are so in love with bailing incompetent, out-dated and out-of-touch companies?

    1. Government can save us all.

      I love you big brother!

    2. He’s not bailing out anything fucktard. He’s using the empty stores instead of letting them collect dust. This guy is the only candidate actually trying to advance production for the 21st century.

      1. Ok cuck
        August.2.2019 at 10:07 am
        “He’s not bailing out anything fucktard.”

        Try reading, you fucking lefty ignoramus:
        “Yang has a plan to protect dying malls, proposing to direct $6 billion to prop up struggling shopping centers. “

    3. You’re incorrect, that’s not what he’s proposing. You’re quoting the article when the article is wrong.
      https://www.yang2020.com/policies/american-mall-act/

      Sponsor the American Mall Act, securing a $6 billion fund to help struggling malls attract businesses, schools, organizations and entrepreneurs to find new uses for the buildings and commercial spaces.

      The key point here is that it’s not focused on making the space stay as a shopping center. These buildings are centrally located in communities and thus are perfect for things like community centers. It’s an investment in local communities to fight urban blight, which is what occurs when a mall closes, NOT a bailout for failing shopping centers. I shop online too. I get it, Yang gets it, the author does not.

      1. I don’t care what it’s ‘focused on’.
        “We” have no business doing anything at all about that, and the $6Bn is going to be taxpayer money.
        If private money were available to do so, Yang wouldn’t need to do anything at all other than get out of the way.

  14. I looked up his plan, which he should clarify…but it’s not to bring malls back it’s to repurpose them for uses that a community could benefit from whether that’s more stores, hotels, apartment complexes, etc. This was lazy writing and research. Do better.

    1. “I looked up his plan, which he should clarify…but it’s not to bring malls back it’s to repurpose them for uses that a community could benefit from whether that’s more stores, hotels, apartment complexes, etc. This was lazy writing and research. Do better.”

      Which is irrelevant. It is not the role of the government to ‘repurpose’ a business.
      Do better.

  15. They call themselves progressive yet they fear change. Shopping is getting more convenient, less expensive both in prices and time. Also for the global warming side, no more driving to malls. One delivery van for everyone on the street instead of all those cars.

  16. Lazy childish journalism. Imagine calling your magazine Reason when you don’t research what you’re talking about.
    He has never said malls should be bailed out. He’s a silicon valley tech entrepreneur he obviously likes disruption. He just suggested the dead malls could be put to use.
    What kind of retard thinks an empty store is an economic advantage over literally anything?

    1. Try reading before you make an ass of yourself, cuck:

      “Yang has a plan to protect dying malls, proposing to direct $6 billion to prop up struggling shopping centers.”

      He’s proposing the use of taxpayer money to ‘bail-out’ malls.
      What kind of a retard thinks that’s a good idea?

      1. You’re incorrect, that’s not what he’s proposing. You’re quoting the article when the article is wrong.
        https://www.yang2020.com/policies/american-mall-act/

        Sponsor the American Mall Act, securing a $6 billion fund to help struggling malls attract businesses, schools, organizations and entrepreneurs to find new uses for the buildings and commercial spaces.

        The key point here is that it’s not focused on making the space stay as a shopping center. These buildings are centrally located in communities and thus are perfect for things like community centers. It’s an investment in local communities to fight urban blight, which is what occurs when a mall closes, NOT a bailout for failing shopping centers. I shop online too. I get it, Yang gets it, the author does not.

        1. Yes thank you!

        2. “Sponsor the American Mall Act, securing a $6 billion fund to help struggling malls attract businesses, schools, organizations and entrepreneurs to find new uses for the buildings and commercial spaces.”

          And this $6Bn comes from the orchard out back?
          Bullshit; taxpayer-funded bailout.

      2. How about you actually read his policy before making a comment on something you know nothing about?

        Directly from his policy page:
        “We need to do all we can to find productive uses for the hundreds of American malls that are going to close in the next four years. Offices, churches, indoor recreation spaces, anything we can do to keep these spaces vital and positive is an enormous win for the surrounding community. We should provide incentives and funds to help more developers reinvent these buildings and spaces.”

        1. “We need to do all we can to find productive uses for the hundreds of American malls that are going to close in the next four years. Offices, churches, indoor recreation spaces, anything we can do to keep these spaces vital and positive is an enormous win for the surrounding community. We should provide incentives and funds to help more developers reinvent these buildings and spaces.”

          First, no, “we” don’t need to do anything, and the $6Bn isn’t going to come from anyplace but the taxpayers.
          You may well be stupid enough to swallow that BS; I’m not.

    2. Hey man, maybe don’t call people retard and fucktard on behalf of the campaign. It’s not in line at all with how the Yang Gang is trying to operate. That kind of shit is exactly what we’re trying to get away from. Libertarians are part of our coalition and potential members of the campaign. If someone says something that’s wrong explain why in a reasonable, chilled out way.

      1. David
        August.3.2019 at 12:35 am
        “Hey man, maybe don’t call people retard and fucktard on behalf of the campaign. It’s not in line at all with how the Yang Gang is trying to operate.”

        So the ‘Yang Gang’ is trying to sell a bill of goods by being nice?
        Fuck off, slaver.

  17. This article is a sad misrepresentation of Andrew Yang’s American Mall Act policy, and the journalist who wrote this article should be ashamed. Literally all you had to do is visit the policy page, where it says:

    “We need to do all we can to find productive uses for the hundreds of American malls that are going to close in the next four years. Offices, churches, indoor recreation spaces, anything we can do to keep these spaces vital and positive is an enormous win for the surrounding community. We should provide incentives and funds to help more developers reinvent these buildings and spaces.”

    1. “We should provide incentives and funds to help more developers reinvent these buildings and spaces.””

      No, “we” should do nothing of the sort.

  18. Hi there! Full disclosure, Yang supporter here. I kind of feel like this article misrepresented Yang’s position. The policy on the site is just six words long – “Find new uses for closed malls.” Amazon turning it into a warehouse or fulfillment center would be perfectly in line with the policy.

    All he’s really saying is, don’t let them become abandoned buildings. Prevent blight. After several years of work in Detroit, it’s understandable that this would be forefront in his mind.

    Tbh, I really don’t know where this idea that he wants to prop up malls came from. I actually would have thought that Reason would be rather pro-Yang – he’s actually much more centrist and free-market than any of the other Democratic nominees.

    1. David
      August.3.2019 at 12:13 am
      “Hi there! Full disclosure, Yang supporter here. I kind of feel like this article misrepresented Yang’s position. The policy on the site is just six words long – “Find new uses for closed malls.””

      And use $6Bn of taxpayer money to do so, while there is no reason for those other than the owner to do so.
      Added to the fact that Yang isn’t interested in specifics shows he’s one more lefty PoS.
      Fuck off, slaver.

  19. I am more than willing to call very one of Yang’s idiot supporters on his slavery; keep it coming, slavers.

  20. David, toph, Jesse, kadett?
    Stuff your bullshit up your asses; no one here is fooled.

  21. Sure, Amazon turns the old malls into fulfillment centers, but what happens when there are no humans in the fulfillment centers?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.