For example, if a shopper finds the perfect blouse while shopping online at a specialty store such as Express, they will visit a mall that has an Express—regardless of what the mall's anchor tenants are. In this way, smaller shops can serve as the anchor for a specific shopper.
"The idea, the concept of the anchor is changing completely," Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, told CNBC in an interview last week. "Every mall has a website and you as a consumer know the brands that you follow and that you like and so you go to a specific mall probably for a specific brand."
And while shoppers don't tend to linger at the mall like they used to, according to Tron, there is still an opportunity when customers are making that trip for a specific item, to lure them in and get them to make an unexpected purchase.
That's one reason why the idea of an anchor stores is shifting, and now includes nontraditional concepts such as grocery stores or gyms, which can repeatedly draw shoppers to the mall.