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by Andrea Chang

For the better part of a decade, the buzz in retailing has been focused on online sellers, free-standing stores and street-level boutiques.

But there’s still nothing like the mall.

As retailers look forward to what is shaping up to be their best holiday season since before the recession, the power of the shopping center is evident in the jammed parking lots, crowds of jostling shoppers and a sea of shopping bags.

“A few years ago, I looked at malls as a deteriorating retail concept because consumers were shopping them less and less,” said Britt Beemer, chairman of consumer behavior firm America’s Research Group. Now “I feel more encouraged. The malls that are definitely going to survive are being more proactive.”

Nearly 52% of retail spending takes place at shopping centers today. That’s down slightly from 55% in the early 1990s, but is still formidable and better than mall performance in the years leading up to the recession.

For proof of that, swing by Fashion Island on a Wednesday. Or check out the outdoor Grove in the Fairfax district during recent rainstorms. Or hit Glendale Galleria, well, any day of the week.

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