Photography by Seph Lawless
While it may seem unlikely on a packed Saturday at Westfield, the communal shopping experience of malls – going “into town” on a Saturday to find a going-out dress or new bedlinen, queueing for a purchase, cramming into communal changing rooms and battling crowds at sale time – is on its way out.With it, the icons of youthful commercialism, the Mallrats, will be a thing of the past too, as many teens’ first experience of shopping-as-pastime will be online, not in store. In the US, online shopping is taking 6% of malls’ trade, while in the UK, there’s a higher percentage of empty units in shopping centres (16%) than in high streets (9.6%).
But it’s not just the internet that is preventing people from venturing to these vast retail hubs – it’s also the effort and the cost. Why pay out for a day trip to fill your car or your arms at retail parks and mega-malls, when you can browse online stores from the comfort of your home, and get your goods delivered for free. Convenience also plays a major part, with consumers considering themselves too busy to spend time journeying to, and then traipsing around, an out-of-town shopping centre. Local shops, online stores and m-commerce offer much more appealing options for the young, super-busy, urban shopper.
Dying mall culture has already affected the fortunes of key teen brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale, which are now struggling to keep up with teens’ changing shopping attitudes. Long trading on their destination stores, their in-store experience (Abercrombie’s being the most notorious), and the cool factor of their wearing their branded tees and sweats (and, of course, carrying their bags around the mall), these mall staples are losing their lustre. Instead of buying these logo’d clothes, teens are funnelling their spending into their mobile devices. As a result, phones and tablets become their gateway to shopping experiences, keeping them away from the mall – and mall brands.
Photography by Seph Lawless
The Retail Gazette has warned that for UK malls and retail parks, “there is a danger that larger spaces will turn into empty buildings, with only tumbleweed passing through them”. In the US, this is already happening, as shown in photographer Seph Lawless‘s eerie new book, Black Friday: Death Of The American Mall. The book documents the deserted landscape of the once-bustling Rolling Acres Mall in Ohio, which had gradually fallen into disuse and disrepair. While the mall closed in 2008, some retailers attempted to keep standalone stores going until 2013, but eventually gave up the ghost, leaving these crumbling monuments to our once-beloved mall culture.
I originally wrote this post for uniquestyleplatform.com