Are malls dead? The landscape of retail in the D.C. area

With one department store, the Ballson Common Mall is an example of a mall that struggles to maintain big retailers that attract consumers to the enclosed retail development. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
David Versel, senior research associate at the Center for Regional Analysis at the George Mason School of Public Policy, says it is no longer enough to have an enclosed development on a parking lot. Many old malls are undergoing redevelopment, including Springfield Town Center, formerly Springfield Mall, in Springfield, Va. (WTOP File Photo)
Abandoned places provide an opportunity for revival. Springfield Town Center is currently an example of one mall being revamped. (Courtesy Vornado)
Bethesda Row The millennial generation is increasingly spending its income in the food, beverage and entertainment sectors. Neighborhood-based developments and revitalization projects at Union Market, Bethesda Row, H Street and Barracks Row are products of this trend in the D.C. area. (WTOP File Photo)
Now, development companies are looking more along the lines of creating spaces attractive to "experiences," such as condos or apartments with retail and food on the ground floor. This is a rendering of a mixed-use planned in Northwest D.C. (Courtesy JBG Companies)
Some malls, such as Tysons, will continue to prosper and will not be affected by the fluctuating trends in retail. Tysons retains the top stores and restaurants, as well as businesses in the area. (WTOP File Photo)
In an effort to correct over-expansion, many remaining brands are pulling back their retail locations -- some by 50 percent. At a national brand level, there are fewer retailers to put in these shopping environments, creating available spaces in malls. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON – Fornash, a local jewelry and accessories boutique, opened in The Shops at Georgetown Park on M Street N.W. in 2002.

“It was dark and there was hardly anyone there,” says Ava Mutchler, Fornash’s marketing and web manager. “Tourists didn’t know we were down there, no one knew that that mall was there.”

The store, which originally started with custom handbags, expanded to sell wholesale in 2003 and eventually needed a larger location for its growing inventory. In 2012, the company moved to the Ballston Common Mall on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Va. In addition to a larger space, the move also promised cheaper rent than leasing space in D.C.

For Fornash, the move was strategic. But for retailers who do not sell online or through wholesale, maintaining a storefront at a mall can be a struggle.

“The retail (space) is more to just have a way for people to come and see the collection and to kind of just be a part of the community,” says Mutchler, who has been with the company for five years.

“(The customer traffic) is really not that great … I just feel like malls are kind of dying.”

The decline of malls:

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