I’m a suburban girl.
I was born and raised in an upper middle class Dallas suburb and ergo I was a mall brat. I spent hours at the mall, dropped off at times unceremoniously by my guardian and left there for the remainder of the day and often well into the night. I’ve seen malls come and go and it’s been the most exciting aspect of growing up. My first job was in a mall. Most of my other jobs after that were in malls. I didn’t break that chain until a bakery took me in but shortly after that opportunity didn’t quite pan out (pun intended) , I returned to the mall.
I think it’s because of this, the ups and downs of retail life I’m always very guarded when I read sensationalized stories about malls dying. Picture it: the Mall, Romanesque in appearance as it is vanquished by the invading Visigoths. Smaller and digital retailers have been beating out malls for a while now, this is true but I do absolutely believe that the severity of this impending collapse of all things shopping mall are mostly impacted by personal geography.
I’ve seen malls come and go in my hometown, only to be replaced by newer shinier malls. Even as an employee, sure I saw numbers fluctuate radically sometimes between sales and traffic we still regardless made money clearly enough to stay afloat. It’s been mentioned time and time again that location does matter. Many states have proven to be nearly recession proof and there are certain industries that fail in one place and thrive in another.
North Texas is a particularly capitalistic part of the state is known for its association of pride with wealth. Everyone who was anyone shopped and did so a lot. What mall you visited said a lot about you. For instance, if you were going to the Galleria or North Park, it was assumed you were of a certain income bracket. The Parks? You were a suburban girl like me. Arlington Highlands? Tourist or retail employee. Grapevine Mills? Totally a tourist. Paragon? Stuck up. And we just don’t talk about North Richland Hills.
How much and what you spent on actually mattered as well. And here is where I think the mall is dying. When I was in high school, we would spend HOURS at the mall and spend maybe 40 dollars (which is a lot for an out of work high schooler) but that conversion to the surrounding stores is abysmal. We easily should have been spending that kind of money PER STORE.
Naturally it’s true that going to be rough for business long-term and again some malls haven’t faired so well. And I do think eventually retail giants will fall. However that fall won’t be dramatic, it won’t be loud and it won’t be entirely nationwide. The cities that have been struggling post-recession, may continue to for a while longer and their shopping habits may not bounce back in enough time to save the area Cinnabon. That’s okay, the death of the mall is difficult but it isn’t the end of shopping. Mall culture will just evolve, it has been for years.