Dead Malls are Casualty of Consumer War

With the Christmas gift season over a week in the rear view mirror many retail chains are counting their profits and hoping that the season helped them get “in the black” for the year.

Through the use of sales and promotions starting in late November and running to January, stores look to boost their profits through holiday sales and gift giving.

For many years one area where shoppers would flock before and after the holiday gift giving season was the local shopping mall.

The Mall of the Mainland in Texas City, Texas celebrated its last christmas this year as it will soon join the ranks of fallen malls that came before it. Photo R. Anderson

The Mall of the Mainland in Texas City, Texas celebrated its last christmas this year as it will soon join the ranks of fallen malls that came before it.
Photo R. Anderson

These concrete behemoths allowed shoppers to find everything they could possibly ever need under one roof while they walked shoulder to shoulder with thousands of their closest friends while listening to elevator music.

Growing up I was not much of a mall rat.

I enjoyed the food court, Waldenbooks and the KB Toy store but the idea of spending a whole day walking from one end of the mall to another never really appealed to me.

Once Waldenbooks and KB went under I found that there really was not any reason for me to go to the mall on a regular basis.

Much like many others I turned to standalone big box retailers and online shopping when it came time to purchase things.

Traditional malls soon gave way to open air shopping centers where one could park directly in front of the store they wanted to get to as opposed to using a directory to find some hidden store down the A Wing.

The Miracle City Mall in Titusville, Florida saw its hey day during the Apollo years. Soon it will meet the bulldozer after becoming a ghost of its former self over the past couple of decades. Photo R. Anderson

The Miracle City Mall in Titusville, Florida saw its hey day during the Apollo years. Soon it will meet the bulldozer after becoming a ghost of its former self over the past couple of decades.
Photo R. Anderson

This exodus from traditional malls led to the term “dead mall” being coined as mall after mall was left as a ghost town as store after store vacated.

While many people may try to avoid dead malls I find that I actually enjoy them more than the still thriving malls filled with tweens, teens and others.

Aside from offering more elbow room for walking through I look at dead malls as a sort of retail archeology and have been to around a dozen in numerous states.

Each of the dead malls I have visited all share certain traits regardless of geography.
There is a stillness inside the once bustling hall ways. If one listens they can almost hear the hustle and bustle of shoppers gone by. And yes, the dead malls still pipe in the elevator music.

Food is no longer served at the food court of the Mall of the Mainland. Photo R. Anderson

Food is no longer served at the food court of the Mall of the Mainland.
Photo R. Anderson

There is usually a central court in the mall where men dressed up as Santa Claus heard the whispered wishes of generations of children but the days of Santa coming to town are no more.

Sometimes a dead mall will still have a few restaurants in the food court but many times the food court is silent.

These dead malls usually will have a few kiosks and other stores open but little else to show that they were once the retail hub of the community.

Usually a dead mall will show signs of life and a brave face but if one looks past the empty store fronts and the crumbling paint one can usually tell that the writing is on the wall that the mall will be gone soon.

Despite the best efforts of a few dedicated employees it is almost impossible to rehabilitate a dead mall once the shoppers have moved elsewhere.

Halls that were once filled with shoppers are now filled with only memories and covered kiosks. Photo R. Anderson

Halls that were once filled with shoppers are now filled with only memories and covered kiosks.
Photo R. Anderson

The malls offer both a time capsule of the way things were, as well as a cautionary tale of what can happen when the commercial bubble bursts.

Recently it was announced that a “dead mall” near me was going to be completely shut down aside from the movie theater and a couple of anchor stores.

The news that the 20-year-old mall was shutting down really should have not been a surprise as it had been on life support for many years but there was still some sadness when the announcement was made.

I had been pulling for this particular mall to defeat the odds and to make a comeback but I knew that was a longshot.

Despite the mall only being around 20 years old it never really took off in terms of full occupancy so I never saw the mall truly busy in any of my trips there.

Future archeologists will have a field day studying the relics of America's "mall era." Photo R. Anderson

Future archeologists will have a field day studying the relics of America’s “mall era.”
Photo R. Anderson

As one anchor store after another closed down, or moved up the road, the mall inched closer and closer to closing forever.

The fate of the mall was further sealed when an upscale outlet mall was opened just a few miles away.

Shortly after the announcement I made a final trip to the mall to say my goodbyes and walk the hallways one more time.

Much like any archeologist would I took my camera along to document the scene and to try to picture the mall in better days.

The remnants of the food court at the Mall of the Mainland which will soon meet the wrecking ball. Photo R. Anderson

The remnants of the food court at the Mall of the Mainland which will soon meet the wrecking ball.
Photo R. Anderson

As I walked the halls I wondered if malls as we know them will survive for many more generations.

I picture a day when archeologists of the future unearth the remains of a mall and wonder about those hot dog rollers and why we needed so many cell phone kiosks.

I know there will be more dead malls to explore and with each one we will grow closer to a time when the mall as we know it becomes extinct until all that is left is memories of what was and perhaps a lone hot dog left on the roller for those archeologists of the future to find.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about malls has me craving an Orange Julius.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

New Year, Same Resolutions

Today marks the first day of 2014.

Today also marks the time when people drag out their New Year’s resolutions which for many are the same as last year’s resolutions.

The most popular resolutions year after year tend to revolve around weight loss based on the amount of commercials flooding the airwaves this time of year for gyms and diet programs.

Turn on almost any channel and the odds are pretty good that in any given commercial break a commercial of some sort of weight loss supplement, program or device will be on.

I revolved to get healthier this year which will likely be accomplished through weight loss the old fashioned way and will not be accompanied by any crash diets or expensive gym memberships.

More power to those people who will be partaking of the fad diets but they are not for me.

Another popular resolution for the new year involves many people searching for better jobs in the new year.

The better job can be in the form of higher salaries or just increased happiness.

Having a job where one is paid well, challenged and appreciated is always a good thing to find so it is certainly a valiant resolution to find such a thing.

Of course having a job that one enjoys can go a long way as well.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have many jobs where it was a joy to go to work. In some cases this was because the people I worked with made the day more bearable and in other case it was the work that was a joy to complete.

These jobs allowed me to cover many memorable events and also helped me feel like I was part of a worthwhile cause that made a difference.

There have also been jobs that I have had that sucked the creative juices out of me and were a complete drag to go to offering little more than a chair that spun and paychecks that cleared on time.

For all of those people in those mind numbing jobs I wish them more fruitful career pursuits in the new year and hope that they find a rewarding job where their talents are fully utilized.

The starting of a new year is also a time for many in the media to compose lists containing their best and worst of the previous year.

Over the past few weeks I have read lists of everything from the best television shows of the last year to the past plays in college football.

These lists are subjective and are 100 percent in the eye of the beholder but it can be fun to see what people found amusing in the previous year.

There will be no lists of what I think was the best and worst from the past year.

Of course another tradition this time of the year is the inclusion of predictions for the year ahead.

This can come in many forms but often involves an “expert” weighing in on who they feel will be the best in a given sport during the coming year.

As I have mentioned before I do not really believe in predictions involving sports teams.

There are just too many factors that can affect the outcome of a game let alone a season so trying to predict what will happen really holds little weight in my book.

Besides it is too easy to say that the Houston Astros will lose over 100 games for the fourth year in a row.

A harder prediction would be to name the World Series, Super Bowl and Stanley Cup Champions for the next three years.

But, even if someone could predict the winners of those events with 100 percent certainty I would not want to know the answer as I prefer to let my sports unfold on game at a time without knowing the winner in advance.

The same goes for the remaining College Football bowl games. Each of the upcoming games have the winners predicted along with the amount of points that those teams are expected to win by.

In the Fiesta Bowl Baylor is predicted to beat the University of Central Florida Knights by 17 points. Of course, I tend to think the game will be closer than that.

My resolution for the New Year would be for people to rely less on what the “experts” say will happen in a game and to spend more time watching the games and letting them unfold as they should.

After all, if all of the outcomes in life were predetermined life would truly be a boring thing to go through.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bowl games to get ready for. Go Knights!

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson