When I was growing up the shopping mall was the place to hang out, but the mall is quickly becoming a relic from the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, the last enclosed shopping mall in the U.S. was built in 2006. The trend these days is for open-air shopping in a center that offers a mix of high-end national retailers, restaurants and entertainment. Instead of being devoted to shopping exclusively these centers tap into the "shopping as a lifestyle" trend that is popular with all level of consumers. It seems to be a direct reversal of the trend in the 1980s in which the strip mall centers and standalone stores found themselves suffering. At that time many retailers moved in to malls simply because that was where everyone was.
Some malls in the United States are currently in a state of decline. The first thing that happens often is that the big department store anchor closes down. This often forces the smaller stores out of business because there is less foot traffic. For stores without an exterior entrance it is particularly hard to lure shoppers in. The problem is so virulent there are even websites such as Deadmalls.com which pay homage to the fallen.
A fascinating article in the Economist also chronicles the dying mall syndrome and also mentions Rick Caruso, the man currently tearing up the streets near my home in Glendale,CA. Glendale is already home to a huge mall, the Glendale Galleria. Right next to it, Caruos is building a 16-acre development that includes a public square and apartments. Caruso has already created a similar center at The Grove in Los Angeles and is planning another in Arcadia, CA. What is particularly interesting about the article in the Economist is the comparison between Caruso and Victor Gruen, the creator of the first enclosed shopping mall in the U.S. Both were looking to create an idealized city center that would offer shopping but also a place to converge, a sort of modern town square. Gruen's enclosed malls tended to pull people of out downtown areas and into the suburban areas. Now Caruso comes in years later offering an idealized version of a city street causing people to abandon the malls. I wonder if in another 20 years the open-air shopping centers will go through the same life cycle.