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Malls: A Shoppers Last Hope

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bradley U chapter.

When you think about shopping, what do you think of? Amazon? Shein? Walmart? Maybe just online shopping in general? Well, when was the last time you thought about the mall? Depending on your proximity to the nearest mall, you could think about it all the time… or maybe never. Malls certainly aren’t what they used to be. Once pillars of shopping and social interaction in the 50s to the late 2000s, malls have seemed to fall flat ever since the invention of online shopping. I think it’s time we reverse the cycle and take a good look at why malls should stay open. 

Back in the day, malls were the place to be. They had all the hottest new stuff and were places for you to dress your best in order to impress your friends or the cute guy working at Orange Julius. It was a place of leisure, a place of social activity. You would go there just to go there. There were movie theaters, clothing stores, records, books and restaurants. Everyone was there on a Friday night. Looking through old recordings on YouTube of teens filming their day at the mall, we can clearly see every square-inch was wall-to-wall people. Cars for miles surrounding the mall. Everything is decorated in neon and weird art sculptures from the high school students nearby. 

But, as of a trip to one of our nearest malls, I have discovered the decrease of attention that goes into malls these days. I could go to a part of the mall and see not a single soul in sight. Stores are barred up never to be heard from again. Trash littering the floor as the elderly mall walkers push it aside with the toe of their Asics and grumble about how it used to be back in the day. And I can’t help but agree with what they’re saying. My mom told me that this mall used to drag in thousands of people a day. Now you’re lucky if you see forty. As I sat on the car ride home, I couldn’t help but wonder… What happened? 

The new age of online shopping has basically eliminated malls from the scene in an almost complete wave. Why would you go out and buy something when you can have it delivered to your house directly? Phones and technology have made us severely disconnected from the people around us. Malls are a naturally social place. You have to talk to the cashier, the workers, you even have the chance of running into someone you may know out doing their own shopping. Somehow, we’ve become scared of that social interaction. There’s a convenience to that ordering, of course: the more than likely possibility that they’ll have exactly what you’re looking for. But the malls hold so many hidden treasures, you just have to have enough patience to open Pandora’s box. 

Overconsumption is also a huge reason why I personally think malls should come back into fashion. While, at the time, malls were linked to a lot of overconsumptions, at this point, online shopping is worse. People will do hundreds and hundreds of dollars’ worth of Shein and Amazon hauls. Overconsumption has become so widespread within the shopping culture that I think if we took a step back, tried on whatever we wanted to get, and then made the decision on if we wanted to get it or not would be the best option. And where do you have this wonderful ability? The mall! 

On that note, let’s explore one of the biggest reasons malls should stay open: the youth. Nowadays, it seems like younger people, especially girls in middle school, only have one outlet: the internet. But the internet may be one of the unhealthiest places for children to begin their young lives. Especially with the low self-esteem that middle school tends to bring. The mall used to be a haven and sanctuary for self-expression. Justice, Claire’s, Children’s Place and the GAP. Struggling through those first early years, attempting to find a way to express yourself, is so unbelievably difficult. These places in the mall allowed kids to be… well, kids. They got to grow up trying to discover the things they like. Whether it be trying on the newest glittering fashion at Justice or grabbing Twilight from Book World. The mall was an outlet. Make stupid fashion mistakes in the dressing room, have fun with your friends in the back of a Spencer’s, be stupid young kids without worry. Now without these outlets, we see children wanting to grow up too fast and fit into the models of the much older influencers who shop online. 

Shopping centers are also extremely embedded into pop culture. Some of my favorite movies and shows have huge fun mall scenes. Stranger Things, in which Max and El have a great time shopping at the mall all while expressing who they are. Cher, from Clueless, who uses the mall as a way to clear her head. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, where we can clearly see even historical figures love the mall. Teenagers working their part-times in Fast Times at Ridgemont High where we see romance blossom intricately in the mall. And of course, the holy grail, Mallrats. Where have the mall rats gone?

Malls are not some historic relic of the past. They’re still around. The biggest problem threatening them is the constant need to modernize and never have any social interaction. Why are we getting rid of colorful neon signs and weird art sculptures and that funky fountain in the middle of everything? Why does everything have to be futuristic, high-tech and tan? Why are we destroying the human instinct to be around others? Why are we leaving behind one of the only places where people can truly express themselves? Bring back the outrageous interior, bring back Orange Julius, bring back the mall!

Rylee Clark

Bradley U '27

My name is Rylee! I'm a freshman at Bradley University.