Monday, June 8, 2009

Reduced Hours at the Mall

The malls in King of Prussia have cut back their hours. They are now open only 73 hours a week. And they are not alone. Retail employees recently have been left to monitor near-empty stores for hours on end recently. It’s expensive and discouraging. Retailers, in malls or wherever they are, have to cut back somehow, but there aren’t many ways to do that. One of the few cuts they can make is in their operating hours.

One less hour a day cuts the costs for lighting, staffing, and security by 5 percent of more. The lost sales are only about 1 percent. It’s good for the stores’ income statements, but not so good for retail workers. Many are working fewer hours, and stores have stopped hiring. The reduced retail hiring is sure to show up in a big way in June’s employment statistics, with unemployment likely to hit 10 percent.

Some stores and malls say they are reducing hours just for the summer, but with the economy continuing its steady decline, it is hard to imagine that they will be in a position to expand again when September rolls around. A generation ago it was common for stores to be closed one day a week, Sunday for a business-oriented store, or either Monday or Tuesday for a consumer-oriented store. I haven’t seen a trend of bringing that back, but that could be what comes next if the economy does not turn around soon.

As another indication of the changing times, malls are taking on tenants that don’t sound very mall-like: a public library, a miniature golf course, an auto dealer. These tenants obviously can’t pay the same rent that a store or restaurant would pay, but it is better than letting large areas of the mall go vacant.