The decline of established American retailing threatens jobs

IT DOESN’T look like much but Staten Island Mall is optimism in a cement box. Like all such retail spaces the temperature is carefully calibrated. Bland pop music wafts down beige halls. Its biggest tenants are America’s unholy trinity of struggling retailers: Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Sears, all of which are closing stores. This mall, however, is undergoing a rebirth.

Gangs of builders are hard at work on a 235,000-square-foot expansion, adding nearly a fifth to the current floor space. This will house more shops, a new cinema and restaurants. In the old part of the mall, struggling tenants are making way for new ones. Sears will soon occupy just a quarter of its former space; two European discounters, Primark and Lidl, are taking its place. GGP, a real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns the mall, reckons that the $231m it is pumping into the expansion will bring healthy returns by 2019. “Good real estate wins,” says Sandeep Mathrani, GGP’s boss. It helps that the mall is the...

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