Understanding the Death of the American Mall

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By Jacob Maslow

young women shopping in mall
Young Women shopping in mall

The shopping mall was distinctly American creation. Originally, shopping strips and shopping districts were wide-open spaces. People would park in front of the stores, and they would walk the street that lined a series of shops. In fact, certain shopping districts in many cities in the United States were very specialized. If you’re looking for clothing, you’d go to a certain section of the district. If you’re looking for shoes, you’d go to another site.

If this sounds familiar, it should be. These traditional shopping districts were laid out in a flat, open way like a mall. The big innovation with the modern shopping mall is that it enclosed the shopping district within four walls. It centralized parking and climate control. Instead of walking the sidewalks that lined all these shops or freezing during winter or feeling burned during the summer, you can enjoy the same cozy and comfortable climate all year round indoors.

Moreover, a distinct American culture developed around the mall. It’s a place where teenagers hang out. A lot of romantic crushes and puppy love developed. There are even movies set in the mall.

Well, you can kiss all of that good-bye. American malls are on the decline. In fact, every single year, the number of malls being mothballed and shut down continues at a steady pace. If the current trend continues, there might be very few malls in America left in several decades. What gives?

The change here is intergenerational. Thanks to online shopping as well as the wide variety of American pastimes, the mall has lost out. It used to be that the mall is a great place to watch a movie, meet up with your friends, and hang out. Now, you can do that at home with a video-game console. If you want to experience nature, you go to a park. There are a lot more activities competing that it can no longer be centralized by the mall. Moreover, the primary benefit that the mall brings to the table, shopping, is handled quite effectively and conveniently by online shopping malls and e-commerce giants. The final nail that is being driven through the coffin of the American mall is the rising American perception that the mall is a relic of the past. It’s a place where people who have nothing else better to do than hang out. It’s not the “cool” place that it used to be.

Put all these factors together and it’s no surprise that the mall is on its way out. Is shopping on the way out? Absolutely not. It’s just been displaced to online and mobile platforms.

Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos

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