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Malls and Gyms: A Match Made in Retail Heaven?

It comes as no surprise that many brick and mortar retail outlets have reported an overall dip in sales, thanks to the prevalence and mass appeal of online shopping. After all, being able to skip the traffic and parking, as well as the long lines at checkout, is hard to turn down. And, in particular, large indoor malls have really struggled – in fact, many have lost tenants and have been struggling to get shoppers through their doors, leading smart retails to explore new options for increasing foot traffic.

In years past, gyms would have never been asked to set up shop in a shopping mall. In fact, many shopping malls would regularly turn down gyms looking to locate in their malls, fearing that the gym’s patrons, in their sweaty workout attire, would distract or disturb their other patrons. In fact, gyms were seen as sort of the last resort of retail, with the best real estate given to the big department stores.

Today, however, there is a major shift going on in the retail world, with savvy players reinventing the shopping wheel and bringing new faces to the table. Jeffrey Soclof of Coldwell Banker Commercial Emmco Realty Group says, 

“High quality gyms and fitness centers provide a variety of fitness brands and techniques that did not exist in the past. As a result, strong operators are sought after for many landlords who previously avoided this tenant category.  One area of significant impact are regional shopping centers and malls where developers are focused on experiences and lifestyle features – exactly what strong fitness brands provide.”

So it’s obvious how securing a new tenant, whether a small class-based fitness studio or a large scale full service gym, is beneficial for regional shopping malls. But what’s in it for the gyms? Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits that locating in a shopping mall can offer.

1. Added Convenience for Members or Visitors

Think about it – your members and your guests can easily get a lot more done in a single trip if you are located in a shopping mall. In a mall, your members can easily grab a protein smoothie or an iced coffee – without you having to foot the bill of adding in a juice bar.

2. Increased Foot Traffic and Name Recognition

There’s no denying that shopping malls offer much more foot traffic than the typical gym location – or worse, an out of the way, industrialized area. And the benefits go both ways, since gyms or fitness centers can bring a different crowd than those who frequent the mall, leading to new potential customers for everyone.

In addition to the added foot traffic, being located in a large shopping mall gives you instant name recognition and directional awareness. For instance, many people may not know where “Riverfront Blvd.” is in Dallas, but they probably know where Galleria Dallas is located.

3. Shared Amenities

Another great benefit of being located in a shopping mall is the use of shared amenities. Being located in a shopping mall means that tenants don’t have to worry about things such as parking lot maintenance, entryway maintenance, or even security cameras or patrol.

Today, shopping mall landlords and managers are increasingly working to make their shopping centers more of a destination experience for consumers, with a mix of brands and options. As the retail landscape continues to shift, look for more and more empty anchor store spaces to be replaced by not only gyms, but also grocery stores, restaurants, entertainment options, and more.