Future of Park Plaza mall looking dim due to rise of online shopping

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — If you’ve been to Park Plaza Mall you’ve probably seen lots of ‘store closing’ signs.

In the midst of what seems to be a mall apocalypse, the future of Little Rock’s mall seems to be up in the air.

You’ll also find empty shelves in Gap stores there at the Park Plaza Mall…
New York and Company and Express are next to close their doors this month.
An economist says more closures could be on the way.

Dr. Michael Pakko is Chief Economist and State Economic Forecaster at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“It’s not terribly surprising we’ve seen kind of the downturn of the mall, the day of the mall, for some time now,” Pakko said.

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The traditional big-box-multi-floor malls have been struggling across the country and Little Rock is no exception. As online shopping steadily increases, so does the number of brick and mortar stores closing up shop.

“E-Commerce sales are now about 12 percent of total retail sales according to the Bureau Census Department of Commerce. So that’s up from about 4 percent a decade ago,” Pakko said.

Other trends are also changing.

Shopping today is more about the experience rather than bringing home a new gadget or clothing.

“A new mall in New Jersey that’s less focused on shopping and more simply on the experience of an indoor ski hill, a theme park, a skating rink, so people are going to these places not just to buy things but to enjoy the entire experience,” Pakko said.

While several stores are leaving Park Plaza Mall, the Promenade at Chenal is still getting lots of foot traffic. It’s all a part of these changing trends.

“The newer developments tend to be more ‘open-air’ kind of a plaza feeling, rather than the indoor, box kind of stores,” Pakko said.

So, what will shopping look like in the future?

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“I think we’re going to see more community-oriented shopping. Less people having to go to where the mall is and more smaller retailer outlets trying to place themselves closer to where the shoppers are,” Pakko said.

THV11 reached out to Park Plaza Mall for input on the closures but they did not respond Monday.

You can share your input on the closures with Vanessa Paige on Facebook, just click here