The official wikipedia definition of a dead mall is “a shopping mall with a high vacancy rate or low consumer traffic level, or that is dated or deteriorating in manor”. But what really is a dead mall, and what is causing them to spring up all across the United States?
Many shopping malls have started to be considered ‘dead’ once the larger department stores like Sears and Macy’s start to leave the establishments due to lack of business but there’s much more to the ‘death’ of a shopping center than only the loss of chain businesses- in fact, according to the newly established categories specifically made to organize and track the gradual decline of the American retail movement, it’s just the beginning.
There are five different classes the average American mall can be put into; Class one is what’s considered to be a regular operating mall with generally good foot traffic and a fair amount of popular chain stores, often described as primaries. Second class is used to describe malls with high vacancies or non-traditional store occupancy that still contain lots of mom and pop locally owned shops, also known as secondary stores, despite the loss of many if not all chain establishments. Third class malls have certain areas or even the entire mall sealed off from the public. Fourth class malls are shuttered up and usually scheduled for demolition. In the case of fifth class malls, demolition and redevelopment has already started.
So what exactly is causing the decline in retail shopping? Many people seem to place the blame on online shopping and strangely enough, the rise of Hip Hop. “Around the late 70’s, lots of teenagers started hanging around the mall with loud music playing at all times and wearing things like chains and sagging their pants down low,” One anonymous user posted to DeadMalls, a website where people often share reminiscent stories of their early neighborhood malls before they were condemned, demolished, or redeveloped. “Lots of people I knew personally as well as several others stopped going because a rumor started going around that they were in a gang and it made them feel unsafe, even though it was obvious they were just rowdy teenagers.”