Our Love Affair With Malls Is on the Rocks

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In other words, shopping was part of the problem and now it’s part of the cure. And once we’re cured, economists report, we really need to learn how to save, which suggests that we will need to quit shopping again.

So the mall we married has become the toxic spouse we can’t quit, though we really must quit, but just not any time soon. The mall, for its part, is wounded by our ambivalence and feels financially adrift.

Like any other troubled marriage, this one needs counseling. And pronto, because even a trial separation at a moment as precarious as this could get really ugly.

So we have come to this 4.2-million-square-foot behemoth — the mother of all malls, a pioneer in the field of destination retailing, and a sprawling, visceral economic indicator — for some talk therapy with shoppers, retailers and management. We let people vent, grumble and sift through their feelings. They catalog their anxieties, describe their fears and express the surprising varieties of guilt that only dysfunctional relationships can produce.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending

13 Comments
Posted January 31, 2009 at 3:33 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Chris wrote:

“We are reliably informed that whatever part of the economic crisis can’t be pinned on Wall Street — or on mortgage-related financial insanity — can be pinned on consumers who overspent. But personal consumption amounts to some 70 percent of the American economy. So if we don’t spend, we don’t recover. Fiscal health isn’t possible until money is again sloshing into cash registers, including those at this mall and every other retailer.”

So what precisely are we, as American consumers, supposed to do?  I’m pretty sure no one has a clear answer or I would have gotten the message by now…..

January 31, 8:04 pm | [comment link]
2. Br. Michael wrote:

Maybe we are going to realize that an economy built on recreational spending can’t be sustained.

January 31, 8:30 pm | [comment link]
3. Chris wrote:

yes #2, we can’t sustain the spending, I get that and understand that.  But then the howls of those who say we’re killing jobs as we’re not supporting industry by buying goods and services, what about that?  I’m afraid it appears to be true.

We really seem to be in a Catch 22.

January 31, 9:22 pm | [comment link]
4. Flatiron wrote:

Paul Zahl has a great discussion about Malls in Grace in Practice that is well worth reading.  He calls them the modern day ziggurats where we conduct child sacrifice.  He did, however, write it in 2006, and much has changed.

For an example of how depraved malls can get, check out Park Meadows in Lone Tree, CO (South Metro Denver).  They have toned-down a bit in the recession too, but it used to be billed as “Colorado’s Premier Retail Resort” and had the motto “Define Yourself”.  Almost as bad as one of the billboards in the Pittsburgh Airport’s AirMall: “I am what I shop”.

February 1, 1:39 am | [comment link]
5. Br. Michael wrote:

Chris, the economy will adjust.  An economy that requires people to buy things that they don’t need and that turn their home into a warehouse to store those goods simply can’t last.  Once we start to produce goods and services the buyers actually need and use then we will be onto something.  It may be that we are over producing those goods and services too.

February 1, 7:39 am | [comment link]
6. libraryjim wrote:

We have two malls in town.  One developer wants to build a third.  However, the older of the two has just gone into ‘receivership’, and its future is in doubt.  The largest of the “anchor” stores closed down and was replaced, a second closed down and is still empty, and several of the interior stores have also closed and stand empty.

The other mall is still going strong, however.

February 1, 11:27 am | [comment link]
7. CharlesB wrote:

Br. Michael, and others: The American worker still more productive than the European worker.  Most American consumers are starting to wake up and realize they can’t in good conscience expect to keep their jobs if they keep supporting cheap foreign goods and outsourcing.  Labor is an asset, not a liability.  We need to re-direct our production capacity in construction temporarily until excess inventory in the housing market is absorbed.  This, in turn will eventually flow down to the auto industry.  What we need to do is put unemployed construction worker to work on infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, airports, railroads, schools.  Many of these are in bad need of repair and upgrade.  We could also help by temporarily giving substantial government subsidy rebates on the purchase of a new automobile produced in the USA.  I would go with 90 or 120-day periods for auto rebates to jump-start things.  We just have too much inventory and scared buyers.  These are not perfect ideas, but they beat giving billions to banks with no programs, accountability or reporting to the pubic of results.

February 1, 4:17 pm | [comment link]
8. IchabodKunkleberry wrote:

In spite of their convenience and easy access, I’ve come to believe
that malls are a blight upon the land. My English wife has pointed
out to me numerous times that the open road we drive upon is
usually just a connecting path between malls. By contrast, in
England, roads are still (somewhat) the connecting path between
villages.  The American shopping “ethic” causes us to uncritically
accept the placement of shopping malls wherever maximum
profit and convenience can be derived.

February 1, 8:52 pm | [comment link]
9. justinmartyr wrote:

“In other words, smoking Crack was part of the problem and now it’s part of the cure. And once we’re cured, Dealers report, we really need to learn how to quit getting high, which suggests that we will need to quit smoking Crack again.”

Reveals just what nonsense Keynesian Economics is. For an alternative, check out http://www.Mises.org

February 1, 8:56 pm | [comment link]
10. Padre Mickey wrote:

#2, perhaps an economy built upon the sin of usury can not be sustained.

February 1, 10:48 pm | [comment link]
11. justinmartyr wrote:

Padre, when you go out to a restaurant, do you pay your meals before you eat them? Do you pay your electric bills prior to using that electricity? If not, you’re a guilty, evil, vile sinner—just like the rest of us!

Owe no man anything, IMO, means meeting your commitments. When you agree to pay a bill, pay it by that time. Don’t default on it.

February 2, 7:34 am | [comment link]
12. libraryjim wrote:

You might think you do not pay interest on the meal when you order it ahead of paying. But that’s taken care of with the tip. grin

February 2, 1:43 pm | [comment link]
13. Padre Mickey wrote:

So, #11, you think usury is a good thing? I don’t think your namesake would buy that!

February 2, 9:57 pm | [comment link]
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