Gyms at Malls: From Pariah to Savior

The Wall Street Journal: “Retailers have closed hundreds of stores across the country amid increasing competition from online shopping, leaving mall owners to grapple with declining foot traffic and rising vacancies. At the same time, fitness centers have boomed and diversified, and a proliferation of smaller, boutique gyms that draw higher-end customers have created more attractive tenants that are easier to accommodate. The result is that health clubs that were once pariahs at malls are helping transform them into hubs of living, working and playing.”

“Many of the new tenants at shopping centers are gyms and specialty fitness studios that in some cases are barely bigger than a Starbucks store. But owners of regional malls also are welcoming sprawling, full-service health clubs as anchor tenants, sometimes replacing the stores that once excluded them … Gyms fit into a broader push by mall owners to reinvent themselves as centers of entertainment at a time when so much of apparel sales have moved online. Landlords are adding restaurants, ice-skating rinks, pools and other recreational options to boost sagging foot traffic.”

“Owners of grocery-anchored shopping centers see fitness as a way to fend off competition from Amazon … Christa Pelc says she often jumps on an elliptical machine at Anytime Fitness in Hoffman Estates, Ill., then picks up dinner ingredients at Mariano’s, a natural-foods grocery store next door … A SoulCycle studio is scheduled to open early next year at Westfield’s UTC outdoor mall in San Diego. It will nestle beside two restaurants that serve organic and locally sourced foods, and a short walk from several cosmetics stores—also hot-sellers.” David Ruddick of Westfield comments: “We’re thinking of this as an ecosystem. It’s not just a workout.”

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