Choosing the right location for your business is more than a logistical decision; it's a strategic move that can define your brand's success. In the retail sector, this often boils down to a critical choice between a standalone "brick and mortar" location and a space within a shopping mall. This in-depth analysis aims to guide business professionals and entrepreneurs through the nuances of each option, helping you align your location strategy with your business goals.

Understanding "Brick and Mortar" and "Mall" Locations

Brick and Mortar: These are traditional street-front locations where the operating business either owns or leases their premises. They stand as independent entities, offering a tangible, physical presence where customers can experience a brand firsthand. This model has been the backbone of retail for centuries, evolving with the times yet maintaining its core appeal.

Mall Locations: These retail spaces are nestled within the ecosystem of a shopping mall, surrounded by a variety of other stores and services. Malls offer a curated shopping experience, bringing together diverse brands under one roof. This model capitalizes on the concept of collective attraction, drawing in customers with an assortment of shopping and entertainment options.

The Appeal of "Brick and Mortar" Locations

These traditional street-front businesses are more than just physical stores; they are the embodiment of a brand's identity and a direct conduit to the customer.


  • Brand Identity and Control: A brick and mortar location is a canvas for brand storytelling. Here, every element, from the storefront design to the interior decor, can be tailored to reflect the brand's ethos. This autonomy in design and layout allows for a unique customer experience that can foster brand loyalty and set a business apart from its competitors.
  • Visibility and Accessibility: These stores are often located in areas with high foot traffic, such as bustling city streets or quaint neighborhood shopping districts. This visibility not only attracts walk-in customers but also serves as a constant advertisement for the brand. The accessibility of these locations makes them convenient for repeat local customers, fostering a sense of community and regular patronage.
  • Community Engagement and Local Marketing: Brick and mortar stores have the unique advantage of being able to engage directly with their community. This could be through local events, sponsorships, or collaborations with other local businesses. Such engagement not only builds a loyal customer base but also embeds the business within the local fabric, creating a sense of belonging and loyalty.
  • Long-Term Customer Relationships: The personal interaction that brick and mortar stores offer leads to the development of long-term customer relationships. Staff can provide personalized service, understand customer preferences, and build rapport, which is often challenging to replicate in an online or mall setting.


  • Often Higher Costs for Tenant Improvements: Whereas tenant improvements in a mall may not include things like exterior work, parking improvements, storefront glazing, and elaborate signage, these items can be major considerations and expenses for brick and mortar locations. 
  • Higher Operational Costs: The cost of leasing or purchasing street-front property can be significant. Additionally, these locations often incur higher costs for utilities, maintenance, and security. The financial burden of these expenses requires careful planning and budgeting.
  • Dependence on Location and Economic Fluctuations: The success of a brick and mortar store is closely tied to its location. Economic downturns, changes in neighborhood dynamics, or construction that affects accessibility can all impact foot traffic and sales.
Credo Beauty - Larchmont Village, Los Angeles, CA

The Pros and Cons of Mall Locations

Shopping malls are more than just retail spaces; they are part of a larger ecosystem that offers a blend of shopping, entertainment, and social experiences.


  • Consistent and Diverse Foot Traffic: Malls attract a wide range of customers, offering consistent foot traffic. This diverse clientele provides a broad customer base for businesses, from window shoppers to serious buyers.
  • Synergy and Shared Marketing Efforts: Being part of a mall means benefiting from collective marketing efforts. Malls often conduct large-scale advertising, host events, and run promotions that draw in crowds, all of which contribute to the visibility of your business.
  • Amenities and Convenience for Customers: Malls offer numerous amenities, such as ample parking, food courts, restrooms, and security. These conveniences make malls attractive destinations for customers, encouraging longer visits and, potentially, more spending.
  • Reduced Marketing and Maintenance Responsibilities: Mall tenants often benefit from the mall's infrastructure and marketing, reducing the individual burden of these tasks. Maintenance of common areas, security services, and even festive decorations are typically managed by the mall, allowing store owners to focus more on their core business.


  • Higher Rental Costs and Operational Fees: The cost of renting in a mall can be higher than a standalone location. Additionally, tenants may have to contribute to common area maintenance (CAM) charges, which can fluctuate and add to operational costs.
  • Limited Branding and Design Control: Malls often have strict guidelines on store design and signage, which can limit a brand's ability to stand out. Uniformity in design can make it challenging for a store to establish a unique identity.
  • Competition Within Close Proximity: The close proximity of competing stores in a mall can intensify competition. A business must constantly innovate and offer compelling reasons for customers to choose them over neighboring stores

Jonathan Adler - Melrose, Los Angeles, CA

In-Depth Analysis: Case Studies and Business Suitability

Brick and Mortar Success: The Last Bookstore

Situated in Downtown Los Angeles, the Last Bookstore stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of brick and mortar locations. As detailed in an article by Culture Trip, this iconic bookstore has become a beloved cultural landmark for its extensive collection of books and its unique, labyrinthine layout and artistic installations. The physical space of the bookstore plays a crucial role in its success, offering a tangible and immersive experience that draws in book lovers and tourists alike. The store's ability to maintain a diverse inventory, from bestsellers to rare finds, coupled with its hosting of events and support for local authors, exemplifies how brick and mortar stores can thrive by creating a distinctive, engaging environment that goes beyond traditional retail. 

Why It's a Success:

  • Unique Experience: The store offers a unique and immersive experience that goes beyond just shopping for books. Its artistic and quirky interior design has made it a popular spot for both locals and tourists. 
  • Community Engagement: The Last Bookstore hosts events, book signings, and art shows, fostering a strong community presence and engagement.
  • Location Advantage: Situated in the heart of Downtown LA, the store benefits from high foot traffic and visibility, attracting a diverse range of customers.

Mall Location Success: Apple Store at The Grove

Apple strategically chooses to locate its stores within malls due to the high foot traffic and prime locations they offer. These locations, often near entrances and main thoroughfares, maximize visibility. The experience-based shopping that Apple Stores provides fits well with the trend of malls becoming more experience-focused, and Apple's presence can boost a mall's attractiveness, drawing more visitors. The sleek, minimalist design of Apple Stores also aligns with the upscale aesthetic of many modern malls. 

The Apple Store at The Grove, a popular shopping and entertainment complex in Los Angeles, is an excellent example of a successful mall-based business. The store is designed to be a gathering place for the local community, offering free Today at Apple sessions and popular Photo Walks at The Grove. Apple Stores are known for their sleek design and innovative technology, and the location at The Grove is no exception.  

Why It's a Success:

  • High Foot Traffic: The Grove is one of the most visited malls in Los Angeles, ensuring a steady stream of potential customers for the Apple Store.
  • Synergistic Location: Being in a mall that houses a variety of high-end retailers and dining options, the Apple Store benefits from the upscale ambiance and the clientele that The Grove attracts.
  • Brand Visibility in a Prime Retail Environment: The Apple Store's presence in a prominent mall like The Grove enhances its brand visibility and allows it to capitalize on the mall's marketing and events.

Both The Last Bookstore and the Apple Store at The Grove exemplify how choosing the right type of location – whether a standalone brick and mortar or a space within a mall – can contribute significantly to a business's success, especially in a dynamic city like Los Angeles.

Weighing Business Needs and Goals

The decision between a brick and mortar and a mall location should be informed by your business model, target audience, and strategic objectives. Consider factors like desired brand image, target demographic, and the type of shopping experience you want to offer. For instance, if creating a unique and immersive brand experience is a priority, a standalone location might be ideal. On the other hand, if maximizing foot traffic and capitalizing on the convenience of a mall setting aligns more with your business strategy, then a mall location could be more beneficial.

Supporting Data: Industry Insights and Statistics

When considering the choice between brick and mortar and mall locations for your business, it's essential to look at the latest industry data and insights. These statistics not only reflect current trends but also offer valuable foresight into the future of retail spaces.

Brick and Mortar

According to an article by Monigroup, brick and mortar retail continues to hold significant value. Key statistics reveal that despite the rise of e-commerce, a substantial percentage of consumers still prefer shopping in physical stores for immediate product access and the tangible shopping experience. The article highlights that brick and mortar stores are not just surviving but can thrive by adapting to new consumer behaviors and integrating technology to enhance the in-store experience. 

Mall Location

On the other hand, a report by Coresight Research discusses the evolving landscape of American malls. Contrary to the notion that malls are becoming obsolete, the report suggests that malls are adapting and remaining competitive. It emphasizes that successful malls are transforming into mixed-use spaces that offer a combination of retail, entertainment, and dining experiences. This evolution is key to attracting a diverse range of visitors and maintaining relevance in the current retail climate. 

Addressing Online Competition: The Power of Physical Presence

The rise of e-commerce platforms has totally changed the way we shop, giving us the convenience of a wide range of products right at our fingertips. This shift to online shopping has definitely had a big impact on brick-and-mortar stores and shopping malls. As a result, many businesses had to adapt to survive by setting up an online presence alongside their physical stores.

Despite the growth of online shopping, physical retail stores still have a special edge. They offer a tangible shopping experience that can't be replicated online. You can interact with products, check out their quality firsthand, and make immediate purchases. Plus, physical stores can solidify brand identity and build customer loyalty through personalized service and engaging in-store experiences. Ultimately, while having an online presence can boost your brand, it doesn't replace the unique advantages of having a physical store.


The choice between a brick and mortar and a mall location is a strategic decision with significant implications for your business. It requires careful consideration of various factors, including your brand identity, target audience, and long-term business goals. Whether you choose the independence and brand control of a standalone location or the collective appeal and convenience of a mall, the right decision hinges on what best aligns with your business strategy and objectives.

If you are ready to find your ideal business location, download our Commercial Project Planning Pack for comprehensive insights, or schedule a call with our experts at Letter Four for tailored advice and solutions.