Coming to a Mall Near You: Amazon?

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Like the mighty river it’s named after, Amazon already winds its way throughout the land. But if a recent Wall Street Journal report is correct, the e-commerce king may be getting closer still.

According to the newspaper, Amazon has been in talks with the Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in the country, to lease Sears and JCPenney stores left vacant by the retailers’ bankruptcies. Amazon would use the multi-level spaces, which average over 100,000 square feet per location, as “last-mile” distribution hubs, bringing its wares ever closer to customers to further its next- and same-day delivery capabilities.

Simon’s malls hold 63 Penney and 11 Sears stores, although sources weren’t certain how many may be in play.

The move, if true, reflects consumers’ increased dependence on online ordering amid the continuing COVID crisis, and mall owners’ increased anxiety as an anchor department stores —including, most recently, Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus — continue to file for bankruptcy and close locations.

While converting the former shopping sites to warehouse space will help generate rent for landlords, the absence of an anchor-store draw will likely further erode mall traffic, the Journal said.

For Amazon, the deal would represent a return to indoor malls, where it had set up sales kiosks across the country carrying Echo speakers, Fire TV media players and other proprietary Amazon tech. That program was recently scuttled.