A sad image is floating around in media and film in recent years. An empty, abandoned shopping mall. A shell of the busy, bustling activity that once took place within. More and more of these commercial hubs are shutting down forever, as less shoppers turn to their stores for goods. But where are these shoppers going?
"It was not simply shopping, it was a destination trip to go shopping," said Tiffanny Rauch, an administrative assistant for ASU NewSpace. "The mall is no longer a destination of fun for me."
According to Statistica, the vacancy rate of malls and similar shopping structures reached over six percent and over 5,000 stores were closed by bankrupt mall-based retailers in 2020 alone.
Millennials and Gen Z are leaving behind the one-size-fits-all mentality of earlier generations, perpetuated by generic, cookie-cutter malls filled with a handful of similar shops and restaurants.
A vestige of the 90s and early 2000s, the shopping mall experience has been abandoned in favor of unique corner boutiques and hole-in-the-wall restaurant finds. Much less concerned with similitude, young people today are searching for individual consumer experiences that fit their own unique style and personality.
"I think people are feeling more empowered to be themselves," Rauch said. "Now … standalone stores that have a range of merchandise have taken over the old time mall shopping experience."
This is only one of many reasons that mall culture is fading.
In theory, a person can walk into a mall and, surrounded by any number of glittering name brands and commercial entities, completely lose all sense of time and space. Am I in Tempe Marketplace down the street, or Brea Mall in Southern California? Who can say? And what time is it, anyway?
Reminiscent of the absence of clocks or windows in a casino, these marketing tactics are sinister, encouraging consumers to shop and never stop shopping. Some would say this is the point of a mall — I would say this is concerning.
These large, commercial shopping outlets are the epitome of mass consumerism, and society is gladly doing away with them. But Sofia Reiland, a senior studying biomedical sciences, and a proud thrifter, warns of history repeating itself.
"I don't know if mall culture dying out is bad, necessarily, but I do think there are a lot of problems with replacing it … with even more mass consumption," said Reiland.