It's estimated that 1 in 4 American malls will close by 2022. Malls were already emptying out prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and now many are simply limping along until they eventually collapse and die like the last of the dinosaurs.

Will Lubbock's South Plains Mall be able to survive? I believe the answer is yes, because it's been stronger than many malls for a long time and has continuously adapted to meet consumers' wants and needs.

Malls work because they have anchor stores that draw folks in. These are the big, department-type stores, like JCPenney and Sears. South Plains Mall had a whopping five anchor stores with Sears, Bealls, JCPenney and two Dillards locations. Sears and Bealls have since departed, but the other anchors are holding the mall intact.

Adapting to new demands, Premiere Cinema's elevated movie-going experience is keeping that wing of the mall alive.

South Plains Mall has no other mall competition for hundreds of miles. There's no mega mall with rides or mini-golf to cannibalize it, so it remains a unique experience for not only Lubbockites, but folks from Snyder to Roswell.

Additionally, South Plains Mall is adapting its space to fit what consumers want. For those who do not want the full mall experience, outside access to stores like Barnes & Noble and near-outside access to H&M mean quick trips to those very popular stores are possible.

What was once an ocean of asphalt is being adapted into eateries like The Cheesecake Factory, with more restaurant options, including Bubba 33, to come. These were delayed by the pandemic, but I believe those spaces will be constructed quickly in the upcoming months as vaccinated folks flood out of their homes.

Malls were invented to provide a space to meet and gather for shopping, eating and goofing off with friends. We all miss that desperately, so I believe South Plains Mall is in for a resurgence in popularity the likes we haven't seen since the late 90s. I could absolutely see new and better-suited anchor stores filling the spaces left behind by Sears and Bealls. For example, why not a Target or other big box store?

I have many happy and fun memories of the South Plains Mall, and I hope it stays around for future kids to have a safe place to meet up. For folks who'd like to see clothes in context and try them on. For inexpensive impromptu lunch dates. For what we all desperately need: community fun.

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