Top 6 Mistakes to Avoid in Strip Mall Construction

Strip mall

Strip malls, or open-air shopping centers, have become a mainstay of American retail construction in most of our urban and suburban areas.

These little shopping centers have become so ubiquitous. We rely on them so much; it’s hard to imagine one failing.

But they do fail. Sometimes developers build too much space, or too little. Or they create a bunch of units that are poorly arranged. Businesses who rent them have a hard time succeeding.

Top Strip Mall Construction Mistakes

Here are the top six reasons strip malls fail:

Mistake #1: Inconvenience

For a shopping center built on the idea of convenience, when you take away that one most-important factor, it makes the whole center doomed to failure. There are many ways to make a shopping center inconvenient.

Mistake #2: Too Large or Too Small or Stuck in Between

A developer may build something too small to house a supermarket or other large anchor store that will attract most of the business.

On the other hand, the units may be too large to be an appropriate place for small convenience-type stores that fill small strips. For example, pizza or take-out restaurants, dry cleaners, and beauty salons.

If a strip mall is built with too much square-footage inside for typical store units to fill, it can’t attract many customers.

Mistake #3: Not Enough Parking

Strip mall customers generally want to park in one of the first few spaces in front of the store and run errands quickly and efficiently.

If not enough parking is planned at the outset, customers will move on to a more convenient strip mall to avoid having to deal with this issue.

Another typical pitfall related to parking is when no parking spots are planned for employees at the rear of the store. Employees generally park where customers want to park, taking up viable spaces.

Mistake #4: Built in a Lousy Location

There are so many ways to mess up your location. For example, inconvenient curb cuts that make it hard for customers to turn, or to see turns in time.

Usually, these happen because the piece of land happens to lie in a curve of the road, or there is a building blocking the view.

Sometimes developers have built a strip mall that isn’t on an intersection, making it much harder for customers to get in and out. Generally, this is because there are already businesses on all four corners of the intersection.

Mistake #5: Not Enough Visibility

A store that is on its own, facing the street and set back only a short distance on a flat plane has 100% visibility. Both sides of the traffic can see this store.

If the front of it were facing only one direction, it would have 50% visibility. So if a shopping center is laid out poorly enough to give most of the businesses less than 50% visibility, most of them are going to fail.

Therefore, the shopping center will probably fail.

Likewise, developers sometimes try to create a second story for a fraction more than it cost to build the ground floor. However, second-story shops suffer from a lack of visibility to customers and the unwillingness from customers to climb stairs.

Enclosed convenience centers that are too small to house big enough stores without easy access fall into this category and almost all of them have failed in this country.

Mistake #6: Unnecessary

Sometimes a developer will build a strip mall where there isn’t a large enough population to support that number of stores or where there is too much competition. Sometimes it is a combination of both.


There are many factors involved in the success or failure of a retail strip mall. Avoiding these common mistakes can help a developer succeed in keeping his or her stores at full capacity.

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