Malls will always play a part in America's fabric. Whether people buy something or not, everyone likes to browse and malls provide that opportunity. Not every mall will succeed, but developers have always recognized changes in consumer trends and have always adapted. Most malls used to focus on providing the most parking spaces, now they center on providing a better customer experience. Times will change and so will malls.
Malls will always survive even if the economy falters. The reason is: people like the fact that they can go to one location and find all of their needs. Some outlets within malls may falter, but there will always be someone else that will take their place. Mall owners may find they will have to lower lease rates, but malls will survive.
I used to enjoy going to the mall as a kid, mostly because of the variety of stores. Nowadays, malls only tend to cater to young adults and women, and not only that, but most people today, both young and old, have found that shopping online is far more convenient and less time-consuming than dealing with potential crowds. And it only seems like malls get the biggest crowds during the Christmas Holiday season. So, my feeling is that malls won't be much of a thing over the next 5-10 years.
While malls are growing in popularity in certain emerging markets in Latin America, particularly Chile, they are on the downfall in the United States, and have been for quite some time. Many malls remain abandoned, and many others have been converted into outdoor shopping "villages". This trend will only continue.
It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that, as soon as the first online store was launched, the death knell of the mall had been sounded. Sure, it's taken a while to come to fruition, but ultimately the huge selection and potential for endless comparison offered by online shopping means that it will prevail at the cost of in-store purchases. Smaller, local showrooms simply can't compete.