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What is an Anchor Store?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Anchor stores are larger department stores that are used to provide a major point of interest for a shopping mall or center. Sometimes referred to as a draw tenant or key tenant, it is usually a well-known chain store that is popular with consumers. The presence of this type of store can entice consumers to visit the shopping center or mall, and possible continue to shop at the smaller stores in the complex.

The idea of an anchor store predates the establishment of shopping malls in the middle of the 20th century. Prior to that time, the concept of the shopping center usually included one key store or tenant that could draw consumers to visit the center. The expectation was that the smaller stores surrounding it would sell goods and services that were complimentary to, but not in competition with, the goods and services offered by the bigger store. As a result, consumers could possibly complete their shopping without having to spend hours traveling from one part of town to another.

With the advent of the shopping mall during the 1940s and 1950s, the idea and its value to a shopping venue was expanded. Instead of including one anchor in the venue, malls began to be constructed with a minimum of two anchor stores. With an anchor tenant at each end of the mall, smaller retailers would occupy storefronts that connected the two together. A shopper may enter the mall at one, then shop at the smaller stores while on the way to the other main store at the opposite end of the mall.

The departure of key tenants is often the first sign of the decline of a shopping mall. Without the larger stores to help maintain consumer interest, the smaller stores usually begin to seek retail space in other malls or centers as soon as possible. Once the anchors and most of the smaller retail outlets have left the facility, it is usually referred to as a dead mall.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By MrsPramm — On Sep 30, 2014

@Mor - I guess the advertising budget for an anchor store really helps out other stores inside a mall as well.

I find the idea of a dead mall kind of amazing, because I live in an area where that hasn't really ever happened. If anything they keep building more sections onto our malls because they are so popular.

But I've seen images online of malls that have been mostly closed down and it's a very strange sight. I guess once the big guns have pulled out it would be very difficult for the smaller stores to continue.

By Mor — On Sep 30, 2014

@browncoat - I'm sure it does help a mall financially to have a big name brand throw its weight behind it. But I can definitely see why a department store might be a draw for people. I often go looking for something in a department store first, rather than in the smaller niche stores, and then look in those if I don't find what I'm looking for.

I'm also much more likely to go to an anchor store for an advertised sale and then end up checking out the rest of the mall as well.

By browncoat — On Sep 29, 2014

I guess I've known about anchor stores without knowing the name. I usually identify malls by their anchor store, or even identify the different parts of the mall by which anchor store is positioned there. But I didn't realize that the mall itself revolved around the anchor store.

Honestly, I usually am either there to see the mall, or to go to the anchor store and I'm not sure that I ever overlap the two by much. An anchor store is usually a department store with specific kinds of generic brands and if I'm after something at a good price, I'll go there, whereas if I'm looking for something specific, or just to wander around and shop, I'll go to the greater mall.

I would have thought the main reason an anchor store would be important to a mall wouldn't be to draw customers, so much as to just have a stable presence paying rent.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum

Writer

Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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