A dead mall or greyfield is a shopping mall with a high vacancy rate or a low consumer traffic level, or that is dated or deteriorating in some manner. Many malls in the United States are considered "dead", having no surviving anchor store (often a large department store) or successor that could serve as an entry into the mall. Without the access, the small stores inside are difficult to reach; without the pedestrian traffic inside that a department store generates, sales volumes plummet for the stores, and rental revenues from those stores can no longer sustain the costly maintenance of the malls.
In many instances, a mall begins dying when the mall's surrounding neighborhood undergoes a socio-economic decline, or a newer, larger mall opens nearby. Structural changes in the department store industry have also made survival of these malls difficult: a few large national chains have replaced dozens of small local and regional chains, and some national chains (Montgomery Ward, Woolworth's) have themselves gone out of business. Hence, in some areas there aren't enough traditional department stores to fill all the existing anchor spaces. The newer "big box" chains (such as Wal-Mart and Target) normally prefer to occupy their own free-standing buildings rather than mall-anchor spaces.
Dead malls are occasionally redeveloped. Leasing companies or management companies may change the architecture, layout, decor, or other component of a shopping center to attract more renters and draw more profits. Sometimes redevelopment can involve a switch from retail usage to office or educational usage of a building. As a last resort the structure is demolished and the property redeveloped for other uses, known as building on a greyfield site. In places such as Vermont with a strict permitting process, and in major urban areas where open fields are long gone, this can be much easier and cheaper than building on a greenfield site.
One of the most famous dead malls is the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois. Dixie Square was featured in the movie The Blues Brothers. The car chase scenes that took place inside a shopping mall were filmed at Dixie Square, and were filmed after the mall had already been closed. Producers dressed the mall to make it appear to be a functional mall that was open for business.