“It was all the way back in 2000 that the website deadmalls.com began documenting moribund shopping centers throughout the United States, and the crisis in retail has only intensified since. Credit Suisse estimates that by 2022, one in four of the nation’s remaining malls will have closed. Some will be repurposed — as housing, satellite college campuses, medical centers, megachurches. Others will simply fall into glorious ruin.
Images of abandoned spaces are hugely popular on the internet – a Reddit forum called Abandoned Porn has more than 640,000 followers – but it’s the dead-mall tour that, in my opinion, represents the apogee of the genre. No other category offers the spectacle of modern ruin at such horrifying scale: the scars of familiar logos on storefronts, the desiccated planters, the sheer volume of emptiness and waste. No other building displays the capriciousness of human desire with such brutal rigor – a once-beloved edifice that, in the span of a few years, has become so worthless no one even cares enough to tear it down. (New York Times Magazine)
Analysis: In 1978, I worked at the University Mall, a sprawling edifice full of pricey stores, restaurants, and trendy kiosks. The mall was a hangout; it was a place to meet friends, window shop, and just walk around. Most teens in those days wore their best selves to the mall – a flashy image was paramount. College students, young parents, and the middle-aged all had a reason to be there, too, and it wasn’t always to buy stuff.
More than forty years later, the culture has changed. Malls have lost their allure. The internet and ‘influencers’ have stepped in. Amazon has everything those ‘mall groupies’ used to buy. And Amazon doesn’t require its shoppers to dress up and hang-out downtown! And whatever you buy from Amazon is sitting on your doorstep the next day. Times have changed and with those changes have come a new paradigm in socializing and buying. Who wants to take the time to walk the mall anymore? Nobody.
A brick-and-mortar retail outlet has a defined amount of space to display its wares. Each square foot of floor space in a store must produce x-number of dollars to stay in business. Talk to any store owner or manager and they can likely tell you exactly how much each section of their store produces in sales. If the store sells clothing, you can bet that each section is specifically structured to maximize sales – marketers and merchandizers will make sure of it. If a section is not producing enough sales, it will be restructured or moved out and replaced with one that will.
Malls, in their heyday, capitalized on that perfect mix of being an attractive social hub and stocking an abundance of overpriced merchandise. The schtick was the location and its social significance. “Where did you buy that dress? It’s so nice!”
“Oh, I got it at Macy’s – AT THE MALL. I was hanging out with Gloria!”
Those ancient conversations have been replaced with, “Cool pants! Where did you get em?”
“Oh yeah; check out all the new stuff on Mariano’s Instagram. Better hurry up; they’re selling fast…!”
The one thing that is and always has been consistent in our human lives is change. People are faddish. Malls are nothing more than a fad. Once popular and the place to be with your friends – a place to buy stuff and brag about where you got it – malls are finished. We’re moving on, folks.