Should You Open Your Shop in a Mall or on Main Street?: Pros and Cons

Here are the pros and cons of opening your business in a shopping mall versus on Main Street.
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With few exceptions, the most important thing you have to decide about opening a retail storefront is where to put it. Making the right choice up front will help prevent a cascade of issues later on, from low foot traffic to ability to expand. Plus, your location helps define the identity and philosophy of your brand—both for your staff and for your customers.

There are many locations you could choose to start your retail business. Today, we’re taking a quick look at two that historically have been in opposition. Here are the pros and cons of opening your business in a shopping mall versus on Main Street.

Operating a Retail Business in the Mall

Shopping malls come in all different shapes and sizes. But as a whole, they offer customers a one-stop location for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Inside malls (as opposed to outdoor outlets) also offer year-round respite from the weather, be it hot or cold. 


Foot Traffic – Malls are built for shopping! They are often flanked by large “anchor stores,” which are retailers that draw in lots of customers. (Think Belk or Barnes & Noble.) These customers often traverse the mall to get from one anchor store to the other, providing steady and consistent foot traffic for the businesses in between.

Less Marketing – Because foot traffic is all but guaranteed, mall-based shops don’t need to spend as much on digital marketing or advertising. And in some cases, such as around the holidays, mall management helps with advertising and promotional activities. Dressing up your storefront is often all you need to do to pull people inside.

Accessible Parking – Except maybe on Black Friday, customers never have to worry about finding parking at the mall. It’s free and plentiful.

Easy Expansion – When you’re ready to take your business from one storefront to 100, it’s easy to work with a chain of malls. Plus, customers will already associate your brand with malls.


Competition with Neighbors – Because malls are packed with retail stores, it can be difficult to distinguish your business from others in the mall. This is especially true if you’re a small, local startup competing with big-name brands.

High Rent – Rent and maintenance of mall storefronts is often high because of the benefits mentioned above. Mall leases also include additional services, like maintenance and security. Those don’t come free.

Mall Rules – Much like living in an HOA community, resident businesses at the mall have to play by mall rules. These include everything from the cleaning crews you use to the types of decor you’re allowed in your windows.

Operating a Retail Business on Main Street

“Main Street” is defined by the small, local, mom-and-pop shops that have operated there for generations. As a focal point for both locals and tourists alike, it is a popular choice for many types of retail and service businesses.


Diverse Customers – Downtown residents, area workers, tourists, and families—Main Street storefronts attract a wide range of people throughout the day. This diversity will impact the quality of your foot traffic. It can also help you shape the direction of your business as it grows.

Well Established – One of the biggest benefits of Main Street storefronts is their character. It’s easy to find buildings well over 100 years old in some towns, especially those around Western North Carolina! Plus, as a new business owner, you can learn a lot from placing your retail store next door to one that’s been in operation for decades. 

Local Loyalty – Locals love supporting locals, and nowhere is that more true than in Western North Carolina. Build a fervent base of local clientele, and you’ll never have to worry about foot traffic again!


Frustrating Parking – In many bustling downtowns, it’s challenging for customers to find parking and wade through the crowds just to pop in and grab a small item. What’s more, employees struggle with parking unless the business pays for dedicated spaces.

Inconsistent Traffic – Foot traffic along downtown streets drops dramatically on cold and rainy days. Plus, roads and sidewalks can be blocked for events, road maintenance, or other things out of your control.

Unpredictable Owners – Shopping malls are governed by single property managers and owners. But it’s possible that every building on a downtown street has a different owner with different rules, regulations, and management styles. Will yours be as good as your neighbor’s?

Extra ServicesStreet retail often requires additional services than those covered in your lease, such as security, cleaning, and communications services. At shopping malls, those are usually included with the space.

Ready to Find the Perfect Retail Location?

The list above is obviously just a quick overview of some benefits of shopping malls and downtown retail locations. The location you choose will depend on these factors and many more, including your industry, your budget, space and transportation needs, and where your customers are. Your commercial real estate agent is by your side to help you weigh all these factors to find the perfect space. 

NAI Beverly-Hanks continually strives to be the best in the business and provide you with the expertise you need. Contact us today to speak with an NAI Beverly-Hanks commercial real estate agent about securing the perfect retail space for your Western North Carolina business.