Mall Things Considered

Florida third in nation with number of shopping malls

Christmas decorations adorn the The Mall at University Town Center on Black Friday. 
 GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald
Christmas decorations adorn the The Mall at University Town Center on Black Friday. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald gjefferies@bradenton.com

During Black Friday adventures, the Kohl's store manager said "shopping is just a more fun experience in Florida."

She came from Indiana, where customers waited outside in freezing temperatures for hours to get the first swing at Black Friday sales. From her perspective, customers who can spend waiting hours fanning themselves and talking, instead of huddling for warmth around a coffee thermos are a little more pleasant to each other.

Her comment got me wondering; Is shopping in Florida really more fun? Do more people shop in Florida than anywhere else in the United States?

According to data from the International Council of Shopping Centers, the Sunshine State is one of the top places to shop. Florida is third in the nation for shopping malls, with more than 10,500. California has the most with more than 15,000 and Texas comes in second with more than 12,500.

But per capita, Florida wins over the other two warm-weather states. It has about 20 malls for every 100 square miles, compared to roughly 10 malls in California per 100 square miles and about five malls per 100 square miles in the nation's second-largest state (behind Alaska) Texas.

I doubt it's any coincidence the top three states for shopping malls have warm climates. Though there are some exceptions, the majority of the malls cited in the International Council of Shopping Centers' data are open-air malls, meaning they're not enclosed. Take it from an Illinois native: walking between stores and carrying a load of shopping bags is easier when the sidewalk isn't icy and freezing wind isn't whipping hair and snowflakes into your eyes.

It all makes sense; to go shopping, customers have to drive to the mall. Retail giants and shopping mall owners can build shopping centers in the three warm states with never a concern about shoppers hitting the ditch before hitting their parking lots. Visit Florida lists shopping as one of the top tourism activities for both "staycationers" and out-of-state visitors along with going to the beach, visiting friends and relatives and enjoying culinary experiences.

Shopping centers statewide employed more than 850,000 people in 2014, according to the ICSC data. That's up from the more than 830,000 in 2013. And unless Florida's climate makes a drastic change (let's hope not), it looks like the shopping industry will continue to grow in the Sunshine State.

Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter

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