COVID-19 and online shopping affect Asheville Mall revenue


Addison Greene

Asheville Mall is located at 3 S Tunnel Road and has undergone new management since the fall.

Addison Greene, [email protected] , News Writer

UNC Asheville economics professor Muhammad Nawaz said the pandemic and the ease of shopping from home has made local businesses fight harder for business. 

“It might be state laws. State laws are very important, and in Texas it’s easy. You can go to the mall and see it’s growing these days but in Asheville this is not a thing,” Nawaz said in an interview from September. 

Nawaz said there is a deeper economic meaning behind these trends in mall traffic, as well as being linked to cycles in the economy and how our evolving ways of life are affecting malls across the country. 

“In Texas, the economy is evolving faster compared to Asheville. The reason is people are  less caring for the masks, but here the people care more for the masks even after two years, after the vaccine,” Nawaz said in an interview from September. 

He said market research is ongoing to get trends back to where they were in 2019. Online  shopping is a growing platform companies are utilizing to seek growth in numbers. 

“In malls you have limited options, limited opportunities and limited brands. You have to choose  from one of them and it’s very important when you need something exact, so that’s a good thing  from the mall’s point of view because they can make an easy sale. But if there’s an online system they will struggle, and this is good for the customer. They will be facing competition in the mall,” Nawaz said.

The professor said the economic system between malls and online shopping are drastic in comparison. They both rely on preference and lifestyle of the individual shopper and their needs. 

“There are two points that are very important, one is cash economy, the other is cashless  economy. Malls are mostly working on cash economy,” Nawaz said. “Fifty percent of mall sales  are cash sales and cash is very important, so hard cash is very important in economic activities. It’s the most liquid and you can use it anytime. When there’s an online system, there’s a cashless economy. You are not paying cash. Everything is going from one bank to another bank  and you don’t know what is going on behind the scenes.” 

Ina Messer, a local Asheville shopper, said they have noticed a differentiation in traffic within the  Asheville Mall. 

“I probably come to the mall every two weeks,” Messer said in an interview from September.  “Most people have turned to online shopping and that’s just what they do now. They don’t even attempt to come into stores because you can get the same deals sitting on your couch.” 

Messer said online shopping and services have made life easier for many people, but some still  prefer the in-store shopping experience. 

“Not even just malls. DoorDash has made it so people don’t eat out as much, and when it  comes to malls in particular there are certain products for me personally I would rather go in  the store and buy, but some people don’t see it like that,” Messer said.

Anis Golriz, a manager at JCPenney in the Asheville Mall said traffic is down since the  beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as multiple stores and restaurants closing in the mall. 

“During COVID they changed owners and everyone was getting a rent break with the  previous owners, but when the new owners took over they cut off that break so everyone  was having to pay full rent and a few places had to close because of that,” Gloria said in an  interview from September. 

Golriz said it’s difficult to compete with online shipping services provided by other services like Amazon. 

“With online shopping, it makes it more difficult to compete with that since we have to go off of whatever corporate’s system goes with, which is UPS. Amazon is a lot quicker than ours so that definitely impacts us and other stores like Belk and American Eagle,” Golriz said in an interview from September. 

Golriz said competitive shipping with other companies and online shopping has affected his store  because of high shipping prices. 

“Our standard shipping is 4-7 business days to get to someone’s house or to our store. We can’t compete with Walmart or Best Buy’s next day shipping,” Golriz said. “Our stuff costs another $50 for next day shipping.”