NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Malls as we knew them growing up (provided you are over the age of 15) are dying.
By January 2015, there will be hundreds upon hundreds of new store closures that spread across the United States like the black plague. The stalwarts of the mall, apparel chains such as Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), Aeropostale (ARO), Gap (GPS) and American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) continue to shutter borderline profitable stores before rent expiration (and bring in a spinoff brand, for example Gap Kids, inside the mother store to cut costs) due to significant margin pressure brought on by Internet price discovery and the prominence of fast-fashion retailers H&M and Forever 21.
As more leases come up for renewal at these companies in the next three years, further lights will go dark. Keep in mind that this activity is occurring alongside a RadioShack (RSH) that is unlikely to be in business for much longer, a Sears (SHLD) undergoing a self-imposed slow liquidation, and a J.C. Penney (JCP) that is likely to announce a new round of store closures in 2015. While it's quite possible the next game-changing American business will be hatched from inside the walls of a defunct RadioShack, the mall itself is decaying. That is depressing.
However, all is not doom and gloom for the U.S. institution that is the mall. I expect malls to ultimately be reclaimed by the community, where a sprawling former Sears will serve as a small business incubator or job training site for the local college, a place to store cloud-supporting servers from IBM (IBM), or distribution centers for those retailers with same-day delivery ambitions. Heck, a J.C. Penney could be retrofitted into a hospital to cater to the influx of aging baby boomers that are bound to require treatment.