People shop at the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, VaHoliday Shopping, Arlington, USA - 22 Dec 2017

Turns out malls offer more than shopping and Instagram experiences. They create jobs, too.

That’s according to a new report released on Thursday, titled “The Impact of Brick and Mortar Shopping,” by Simon Property Group, a real estate development firm with a portfolio of more than 220 malls globally. The report looked at the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of the roughly 200 Simon malls in the U.S. and found that the real estate development firm created 316,870 jobs in 2017.

“Brick-and-mortar shopping enhances the quality of life and well-being of communities in numerous ways, including the support of vital local interests such as education, public safety and infrastructure,” David Simon, chairman and chief executive officer of Simon Property Group, said in a statement. “Additionally, in the ever-growing age of digitalization, shopping centers create gathering spaces for visitors to shop, dine, socialize and share in-person experiences with family, friends and other members of their local communities.”

Of the jobs, 311,870 were in retail stores across Simon shopping centers. That equals more than $5.9 billion in annual wages. The other 5,000 jobs were working directly with Simon Property Group.

In the last five years, the property group has invested $5 billion into its most coveted real estate to create or help revive Class A malls, or malls that are a destination in and of themselves. A seemingly ironic move at a time when many retailers are mourning the death of traditional brick-and-mortar shopping. 

But Chidi Achara, chief creative officer at Simon, said the narrative of dying malls is not true.

“We’ve seen significant increases [in real-life shoppers] considering the climate we’re in,” he said. 

The investment seems to be working. In fact, the group said mall traffic was up year-over-year in November and through this year’s Black Friday shopping weekend, what is considered the start of the holiday shopping season.

The group said it contributed about $5 billion to local communities last year by way of property taxes it paid and state sales tax generated by Simon tenants.

“While retailers work hard to deliver convenience and evolving expectations, shopping behaviors do have environmental and socioeconomic impacts,” the report stated. “Shopping malls have a multiplier effect on the jobs, wages, taxes and economic growth sparked in the communities in which they operate.”

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