Malls have brought many a lot of joy over the years. Not just for the great shopping options, but the movie theaters, restaurants, performances, festivals, and more. Some even used malls as exercise facilities (remember the mall walking craze?). We have a lot of nostalgia around shopping with friends and family, creating great memories and the huge part malls played in many of our lives growing up. Sometimes you just wanted to hit the mall to pass time, entertain out-of-town guests, or just people watch. Whether you wanted to “cruise” the mall for something, or someone, in particular, or you just wanted to get out of the house – malls served a great purpose for a variety of reasons.
Why Things Have Changed
As the years have gone by and technology has evolved, more people are shopping online to avoid the “hassle” of driving to the mall, finding parking, navigating through the crowds and being approached by the various kiosk vendors (no, I already have a phone, thank you). While it has been convenient to shop with a click, it’s also changed our society in so many ways. Social skills, courtesy, dialogue, learning how to manage your money (and handheld carrying load) were all staples of mall shopping as we age. For some, now the thought of going to the mall seems horrid.
Further, even if it weren’t for the growing advancement of shopping online, now COVID-19 has put a damper on mall shopping even if you wanted the option to go. This has further driven people away from mall shopping (even if some are still open). Over time, our tolerance for other people, minor inconveniences, and having to wait in line has all diminished. Now with a pandemic erupting, some people are fearful to go out in public, let alone the mall.
These days, malls are looking like ghost towns. This is unfortunate because the experience brought a lot of social integration and societal skill-building. We learned how to have a backbone and say no to pushy salespeople. As teens, we learned about the real-life effects of bullying. We learned how to manage what was in our pocketbooks, by actually looking at our cash, or by collecting and keeping physical receipts. We learned the hope that comes along with tossing a penny in a fountain. We learned how not to lose our mom or dad (walk faster!). For many, malls provided a spark of holiday cheer with decorations, music, visits to get our Santa or Easter Bunny photos were taken.
If you were lucky and lived in a larger city, you may have even got a glimpse at a celebrity or two. There were fashion shows, dance groups, pet shows, giant bubble gum machines, ice skating rinks, parking lot sales. Sometimes even just cruising the aisles to see what was out there was the best part.
Why Malls Are Important
Shopping malls literally opened up our eyes to things we may have never seen before. And unless you were in a tremendous hurry to make a purchase, it was experiential shopping with all sorts of visual and audible stimulation. Thank goodness for a hard-earned seat and snack at the food court (if you could find a seat!). Malls used to be packed with all different types, ethnicities, ages, and personalities to encounter. And you could even do real-time price comparisons between stores. You could physically touch items, try them on, check yourself out in the mirror, and really consider it before making a purchase.
If you’re feeling a loss over the fact that malls have become less and less a part of our culture, you’re not alone. Whether it was prom dress shopping with mom, going to the movies with dad, or just general shenanigans with friends, malls provided so much more than shopping. It was a place to make some of our best memories. For some people, this was their self-care time. And there was nothing like hauling all your purchases around while your arms were hurting, but there was still so much to see. Better yet was the feeling of leaving the mall with all your purchases, lugging them out to the car, and getting home to have everything at your fingertips. There were no Amazon deliveries or delays. You could throw on a brand-new garment, pop in a new video game, eat a tremendously large bag of flavored, rainbow popcorn or wrap a carefully selected gift for a friend or loved one.
There was nothing like running into an old friend, classmate, coach, teacher, or someone who you would least expect to see. The laughter, the arguments, the sales pitches, the sounds of cash registers or people yelling out of the dressing room to have another size delivered – these are things we simply don’t encounter anymore. And with the trajectory of malls on the decline, future generations will never experience the range of emotions and sense responses to mall shopping life.
Yes, shopping from the comfort of your own home may be more convenient, and with the uprising in coronavirus, safer – but it will simply never be the same for those of us who grew up visiting shopping malls. The mall economy provided more jobs, more “last minute” purchases, more movie ticket sales, parking fees, and other varieties of money exchange. And for most of us, the fun and joy we all so fondly remember.