Shopping Malls, one



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These are the ruins of a dying culture: the American shopping mall.

Audrey Caligeria: “This was a working fountain, wasn’t it, many years ago?”
Friend: “Yep. It definitely was.”
Audrey Caligeria: “I remember Woolworths being here. And then they brought that skating place in.”

Audrey Caligeria grew up outside of Toledo.

Audrey Caligeria: “The mall was always the place to go.”

And like many of her generation, she spent much of her teenage years hanging out at the mall.

Audrey Caligeria: “It was always busy. I mean you couldn’t even get parking spots a lot here. I spent most of my paycheck in my high school years at JC Penny’s and Petries.”

Audrey wasn’t alone.

Everyone wanted to go to the mall.

For half-a-century, the mall was the mecca for our booming consumer society — a fact celebrated in many a popular movie.

America’s love affair with the shopping malls began in 1956, when the nation’s first fully enclosed mall, Southdale, opened its doors outside Minneapolis.

Robin Lewis: “This was the most exciting period in this economy. Actually the most explosive growth, anywhere on earth, at any time during history; early fifties through the seventies.”

Robin Lewis is the author of The New Rules of Retail.

Robin Lewis: “In the mid-fifties, Dwight Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act.”

These highways will have a far-reaching economic impact on the entire nation.

Robin Lewis: “And they constructed 54,000 miles of interstate highway. What that did immediately is that it provided mobility. So they began moving to the suburbs and cities.

But also, what it afforded was the ability to construct these regional malls. And they just exploded across the country.”

Between 1956 and 2005, about fifteen hundred (1,500) malls were built, including The Mall of America in Minnesota, one of the world’s biggest: 4.2 million square feet, five hundred-twenty stores, an amusement park, and even a wedding chapel.

It was a golden age of shopping, which lasted until a new golden age came along, courtesy of the internet.

Robin Lewis: “All of the sudden, the consumer now has every single retail store throughout the world — a key tab away.”

Today malls across the US are dying. No new, enclosed mall has been built since 2006.

And Lewis predicts that fully half of all our malls will close in the next ten years.

Journalist: “Why would get into your call and drive to a mall when you can reach into your pocket?”
Robin Lewis: “That’s the point.”

But if the mall is dead, how do you explain this?

On the outskirts of Atlanta, we found one formerly dying mall that’s thriving.

Where some saw financial ruin, Jose Legaspi saw opportunity.

Jose Legaspi, Entrepreneur: “The color, the items. That’s what brings people from afar to this area.”

In 2005, he took over a struggling generic mall, and transformed it into Plaza Fiesta, designed specifically to meet the needs of an exploding Hispanic population.

Jose Legaspi, Entrepreneur: “We followed demographics, because it’s nothing more than a numbers game, I will tell you. You’ve got to have enough consumers, of course, to be able to support something like this, or any kind of mall.”

Legaspi has turned dead space into successful Hispanic malls in several cities with large immigrant communities.

Looking to expand, he discovered the Hispanic population around Atlanta, had nearly quadrupled between 1990 and 2000.

But one thing was missing.

Jose Legaspi, Entrepreneur: “Part of the Hispanic culture is family. There wasn’t a place where families gathered. Shopping doesn’t just mean shoes and clothing or eating in a restaurant.

But it’s also a place where they can listen to music, sit down, relax, and spend some time with their families.”

Plaza Fiesta has 280 stores. But there’s also a doctor’s office and a dentists. There are hairdressers, money wiring services. Everything you might find in a Mexican village.

There’s even a bus station to bring customers in.

The mall had more than four million visitors last year.

Journalist: “It’s more than a one-stop shopping; it’s a one-stop experience.”
Jose Legasbi: “it’s a one-stop experience.”

The strategy here, paying attention to a changing America, and giving customers something they can’t get on a computer, may also be the key to reinvention in other malls in other places, says Robin Lewis.

Robin Lewis: “If some of these malls are going to have a second life, what are the key? Experience, entertainment. We’re going to drag them away from their smart phones, shopping the internet, you’ve got to give them a reason to spend the time to go an make the effort to go there.”

And the only way they’re going to do that is if there’s a fun thing going on.
Journalist: “And an experience you can’t get online.”
Robin Lewis: “Exactly.”

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11. In America, more and more shopping malls are being built. Shopping centers are becoming more popular. True or false? Have they changed greatly from a few decades ago?

12. Do (middle-aged) people have fond memories of shopping malls? Why did they love shopping malls? What did they do there? What was it like there?

13. Have shopping malls always been a traditional feature of American culture? Or was there a peak or golden age of shopping malls in the US?

14. What is “killing” many shopping malls?

15. The future of all shopping malls is bleak. The experts are pessimistic about all shopping malls. Is this right or wrong?

16. “We followed demographics, because it’s nothing more than a numbers game,” said entrepreneur Jose Legasbi. What does he mean by this?

17. The new Plaza Fiesta shopping mall features only shops. Is this correct or incorrect?

18. What is the key or secret to reviving old shopping malls?


A. My friends and I love going to shopping malls. Yes or no? Does everyone enjoy going in shopping malls?

B. How many shopping malls are in your city? In your country? When did shopping malls start being built?

C. Are shopping malls big business? Are they still popular with residents?

D. Is online shopping becoming more popular? Are they competing with and taking business away from shopping centers?

E. What will happen in the future?

F. What could or should people and businesses do?


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