Mall Landlords Embrace Once-Spurned Popups to Revive Dead Zones

Macerich Co. is offering 180-day leases to sign pop-up tenants.

(Bloomberg)—It wasn’t that long ago that retailers looking for space at shopping centers would get paperwork only for a multiyear lease.

These days mall landlord Macerich Co. is offering 180 days.

Last month, Macerich launched BrandBox, a leasing program that allows online sellers to dip their toes into the bricks-and-mortar universe with a temporary pop-up store. The first one, featuring six retailers, is up and running at northern Virginia’s Tysons Corner Center, with plans to expand to at least five more states. The leases are six to 12 months, and the store walls are flexible, meaning Macerich can switch up the layout to accommodate different numbers of shops.

“Instead of selling real estate, we’re selling a solution,” said Kevin McKenzie, Macerich’s chief digital officer. “That’s an entirely new process, culturally, for our company.”

Macerich, which owns more than 50 shopping centers, is trying to reclaim some of the industry’s mojo. Big-box stores such as Sears and Toys “R” Us, once anchors that drew crowds ready to spend, have filed for bankruptcy. Malls, over the years, have struggled to attract foot traffic. Signing retailers to long leases and hoping none of them takes a trip to bankruptcy court is starting to look like an outdated formula. Kids these days, at least the ones with the money to shop, aren’t into brand loyalty. They’re into Instagram.

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