The mall is something that many of us have grown up with. These cathedrals of retail loom large in our towns and cities, inviting shoppers from far and wide to worship at the altar of consumerism.

Some malls are retail outlet giants. The largest retail mall, Mall of America in Minnesota boasts over 500 stores and 50 restaurants.

But where did the shopping mall come from? And what does the future hold for our beloved retail center?

In this article, we’ll talk you through the history of the shopping center.

A History of the Shopping Mall

In the first half of the twentieth century, retail was dominated by the downtown department store. These stores carried everything you could desire from food to furniture and clothes to cosmetics.

Department stores even had their own restaurants, photo studios, and post offices. Everything you could need for an entire day out shopping. Some of these department stores were vast, with Hudson’s of Detroit spanning 25 floors.

Back in the days after the end of the second world war, Americans started to move out of the cities and into the suburbs for a different quality of life. When this happened, department stores started to open up in the suburbs to serve the new suburbanite population.

Large malls were first built in the mid-1950s. Hudson’s built the Northland Mall just outside Detroit while the first enclosed mall, the Southdale Center was opened in 1956 outside Minneapolis by the Dayton Company.

By the time the swinging 60s rolled by, the shopping mall was a common sight across the United States and downtown retail was suffering.

To combat the threat from the big suburban malls, downtown retail malls began opening up in inner-city areas. Some towns and cities closed off roads to make pedestrian retail shopping centers.

The Decline of Downtown Shopping

As downtown shopping centers began to dwindle, many major department stores began closing their doors on the high street. Many pedestrianized shopping streets were reopened to vehicles and many towns saw their malls torn down.

The mid-1990s saw suburban malls facing issues of their own. Many department store chains were closed down or bought out, leaving fewer mall anchor stores. ‘Big box’ retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart began expanding fiercely and hundreds of malls began shutting their doors for the last time.

By the start of the 21st century, lots of downtown areas were starting to see a revival, but not with retail and department stores. They were, instead, being revived by the opening of arenas, performance venues, restaurants, museums, and government buildings.

By 2005, the construction of new shopping malls had pretty much ceased.

What Is the Future of the Shopping Mall?

The shopping mall has been with us for around 70 years now and has seen a big shift in the way that people shop.

In recent years, the mall has had to adapt to the threat of online shopping, the global credit crisis, and the global COVID-19 pandemic. The future of malls hangs on a precipice.

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