Monday, January 30, 2012

Death of American consumerism

Sunday afternoon we decided to take a family outing. The plan was to go see a movie, drop by Half Priced Books, have some dinner, and stop at Target to get some new work pants for the husbeast. The kid showed up just in time to join us, which made the entire plan that much nicer.

Normally we would go to the big Cinemark near our house to see a movie, but after a frustrating incident Saturday night, we are temporarily boycotting that theater. So instead we headed to the AMC in the mall. It is not normally our first choice because it is a little far, but it has the bonus of being across the street from a Half Priced Books, so it was a win in my world.

Now when I first came to this mall it was probably around ten years ago, before I had even moved to Dallas. I can remember walking through the mall on a Sunday afternoon and seeing it fairly busy. Mobs of unattended teenagers roamed around looking mischievous while families tried to wrangle their children in. Everywhere you looked you found people with shopping bags milling about in that strange mall daze. All of this was before the movie theater was even built, so all of the business was just mall business.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. There were only a handful of people in the mall at all. I am fairly certain the majority of the people we saw were mall employees, and the rest seemed to be patrons of the movie theater. 80% of the shop fronts stand empty as well as almost all of the kiosks that used to sell jewelry, candles, or custom airbrushed t-shirts with your face on them. There was an eerie sort of silence that was not natural for a mall at 5pm on a Sunday.

As we looked about at what would be the ideal setting for some zombie horror movie the husbeast asked what had happened to this place. Was it a sign of a really bad economy or the death of American consumerism as we knew it? I think the answer is both.

With the economy being so bad smaller businesses have taken such a huge hit, but they are not helped any by the fact that malls just aren't the thing anymore. It is not that the need for what a mall had is no longer there, it is just that they are housed in different forums now. Now if you want to go shopping you go to an outdoor shopping center. Something that is crammed full of big box stores and chain restaurants. The unholy union of outlet malls and strip centers.

These outdoor mega shopping complexes are everywhere. They hold everything that your traditional mall held with the added bonus of a variety of full service restaurants. Also there is not the pressure to go into ten different stores when you only came for a new book. There is also the added bonus of going to your car after every store so your arms are not laden with packages from your shopping adventures.

These complexes have been gaining popularity for years now while the traditional mall slowly dies away. The once bastions of American consumerism are slowly becoming extinct like the dinosaurs. These behemoth eyesores are standing empty waiting to be repurposed or demolished to make way for something more modern and useful.

So while consumerism is alive and well, or as well as it can be in this economy, the malls days are numbered. Soon the only evidence that we will have of the glory that was the mall will be held in the form of cult classic movies about teenagers of the 80's and 90's. It is a part of my youth that is letting out its death rattle, and this makes me a little sad.

I suppose though it is the way of things. One idea passes on to make way for another that seems more appealing. Who knows someday we might find ourselves moving back indoors to shopping malls, or perhaps internet sales will become the only option at all, completely killing off the idea of an actual storefront.

Who knows what the future holds.


  1. So true, although the indoor malls seem to be replaced by the outdoors village-y ones.

  2. We're just starting to get these outdoor shopping areas, but they're getting bigger.

  3. I think that brick and mortar stores are slowly dying a sad death. There will always be the desire to touch and personally examine some kinds of merchandise, but more and more shopping gets done online nowadays.