So, it turns out that China might just have too many shopping malls… like way too many. According to new report, one-third of them will be gone by 2020.
The report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says that those malls that don’t shut down will have to transform to survive — with one-third becoming wholesale or retail marketplaces and another third integrating in online shopping.
Researchers say that large shopping centers are losing their appeal with Chinese urbanites, thanks to the rise (and incredible ease) of online shopping and the overabundance of outlets. ECNS reports that cities like Qingdao, Chongqing and Dalian all saw large shopping malls shut down at the end of August.
Still, there is quite a few leftover. China has nearly 4,000 shopping centers, triple the number of the US. 7,000 more are estimated to open by 2025.
China has been on a shopping mall building frenzy over the past few years. In 2013, Forbes reported that “There is more mall space under construction in one single city in China than in 86 cities throughout Europe (not counting Russia and Turkey).” And it seems that there might have been a little over-building going on during that time, particularly in third-tier cities that are home to numerous shopping centers filled with nothing but empty space.
Even Shanghai, China’s shopping mall capital, isn’t immune to a little over-exuberance. Earlier this year, pictures of a vacant shopping center out in Pudong shaped like the Pentagon (and even bigger than the real Pentagon) made headlines around the world. And of course, there’s the New South China Mall in Dongguan, the largest mall in the world at 659,612 square meters, that has been a national embarrassment since it opened in 2005. 99% in empty in 2013, it does appear to be staging some sort of comeback.
The report argues that one of the main problems with China’s shopping malls is that there is little to differentiate one mall from another. But hey, it’s not like developers haven’t been trying. In order to attract shoppers, malls have brought in baby pigs, acted out the executions of Japanese war criminals, and held boob-painting shows in the cold. There are malls with Ferris wheels on top, giant five-story slides inside and “ladies only ” parking spaces underneath. One Guangzhou mall even has an aquarium with the “world’s saddest polar bear” for Christ’s sake.
Some shopping malls in southern China are even installing water rides:
The authors of the report have charged local governments with doing a better job of approving and allocating real estate space. Of course, these are the same local governments that plan to build enough housing for 3.4 billion people by 2030. If only China had more people!
[Images via Remko Tanis]