Growing up, going to the mall was always a treat. Typically, my parents took us twice a year–once to get school clothes and once to get summer clothes. After we had picked out what we needed, our parents took us to one of several restaurants attached to the mall for lunch, or we ate in the food court.
When I grew older, the mall was a great place for me and my best friend to go to spend the money we earned from our after school jobs. I remember trying on outfit after outfit before choosing the right one. Or, we could just buy a snack at the food court and chat for a while.
When we bought our first house, it was just a short drive from a mall. At the time, I considered it an asset to the community. After we had kids, my husband and I started taking them to the mall occasionally to get clothes or to see Santa.
But, slowly, the mall changed.
I think the first time that I realized the mall had changed was when I had my young children in a shoe store and was about to check out. Suddenly, the shoe store was filled with angry teens (about a dozen) who were confronting the sales clerks. Frightened, I instructed my kids to avoid looking at the teens and we left as quickly as possible (abandoning our would-be purchase of new shoes).
Shortly after that incident, a father of two was shot and killed in that same mall. The police moved a substation into the mall. Several anchor stores closed down or left the mall. Even the mall of my childhood is a shadow of its former self today, as many of the original stores are gone.
A few years ago, when we had the opportunity to move our family to a different neighborhood, we chose to live in a town without a mall. To tell you the truth, I haven’t missed it.
Of course, I’m not the first person to wonder about the future of shopping malls. Many others have speculated on the future of the traditional shopping mall:
- Greg Lindsey at Fast Company, The Mall Is Undead, but Maybe Not for Long
- Katie McCaskey at Housing Watch, The Curse of Zombie Shopping Malls
The traditional mall has some major strikes against it besides the crime issue that I noted earlier in this post:
- Energy Issues–Malls enclose a lot of space. That makes them expensive to heat in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Increased competition–Malls used to be the only game in town when it came to buying certain items. Now they have online shopping as well as the giant membership clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club to compete with for shoppers.
What do you think the future holds for shopping malls? Can good PR save the American shopping mall (and should it)?