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What is an Anchor Store?

A store that sells anchors. There you have it; end of guide. No, of course not. When people talk about anchor stores, they don’t mean shops stocked with heavy-duty maritime equipment. 

If they may as well do, for how much the term means to you, never fear. By the time you’ve read this short guide, you’ll be an anchor store expert. We’re going to tell you what they are and how they benefit or disadvantage other businesses. We’ll even discuss whether they’re as relevant in the ecommerce age

What Are Anchor Stores?

To explain anchor stores, we need to take a virtual trip to the mall. Imagine you’re standing in front of one of those large mall maps. You’ll see massive brand name stores at each end or corner of the shopping center. They’re the ones with the biggest floor area, which all the mall’s traditional or digital signage points you to. 

These are anchor stores. They’re the big brand name outlets that people go to the mall to visit. They’re usually department stores, and shopping centers get built around them - literally and figuratively. The level of brand awareness people have for these stores is what attracts them to the mall. Such renowned brands can also have an anchor store effect on shopping streets, as well as malls. 

Advantages of Anchor Stores

Look at any major shopping center or street around the world, and you’ll spot anchor stores. They’re fundamental to any mall or location that survives by attracting shoppers. Why, then, are these shops so beneficial?

1. To malls or shopping areas.

The brands behind anchor stores often have enormous marketing budgets. Think major Christmas or Super Bowl TV ads big. A mall or shopping center can cash in on their spending second hand. By advertising that they’ve got a Macy’s, a JCPenney, or the like, they cash in on those stores’ brand recognition. It’s a surefire way to attract more shoppers to their location.    

2. To nearby retailers. 

The other outlets at a mall also benefit from the presence of anchor stores. And not only because of the overall increase in shopper numbers they bring. Retailers close to an anchor store will also enjoy more footfall past their shopfronts. 

That will often increase their visitor numbers and, as a result, sales. It’s not foolproof, of course. There’s not much crossover between the clientele of a clothing-based anchor store and a retailer selling a VoIP phone system, for instance. In general, though, higher footfall means better sales.  

Disadvantages of Anchor Stores

Like all things in business, the concept of anchor stores has its downsides, too. The following are some of the principal ones.

1. To malls or shopping areas.

The problem for malls is if they get too reliant on one or two anchor stores. In that case, if the outlets in question pull out of their center, it can be tough to recover. Blow all your budget on promoting Nordstrom, and you’re in trouble if that store leaves your mall.   

2. To nearby retailers.

There are challenges for shops situated close to anchor stores, as well as opportunities. Firstly, you’re likely to have to pay more rent for the prime position. Worse than that, if you’re too close to the anchor, people might overlook your shopfront entirely. They could be too excited to visit the larger store on their first pass. They may then be done with shopping or too wrapped up in their anchor store purchases to give you a look on the way out.   

Anchor Stores in the Ecommerce Age

As we’ve mentioned, anchor stores are vital to malls and brick-and-mortar shopping locations. Those kinds of sites, though, are less popular with consumers than they used to be. Retail is increasingly moving online.

The trend to ecommerce is diminishing the importance of anchor stores. Many brands are more concerned with web hosting than physical store locations. Even when shoppers do visit malls now, how they shop is different. 

They often head straight to a store for a particular product they’ve already picked out online. Such modern shopping lessens the locational impact of anchor stores. It’s easier for smaller retailers, too, to market themselves digitally rather than in a mall. 

Business owners can quickly learn how to record a webinar to drive traffic to their website. It’s less straightforward to boost footfall to a physical store that’s not performing as you’d like. The relevance of anchor stores, therefore, is likely to continue to fall.  


While not quite as simple as being an equipment shop for sailors, anchor stores are a straightforward phenomenon. They’re the massive stores with huge budgets and reputations, which attract shoppers to malls and shopping centers.  The brand awareness that the stores bring is vital to a mall’s survival. The attraction of the popular stores to customers, too, can help nearby retailers. As shoppers migrate online, though, the relevance of anchor stores diminishes. It’s one of many reasons why shopping centers the world over are starting to struggle.

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