Recent episodes of the Netflix series Stranger Things, set in the early 1980’s, featured scenes in a shopping mall. The teenage characters were shown walking past such Mall mainstays as Orange Julius and Radio Shack.
Indeed, teenagers of the 1970’s and 1980’s spent a lot of time in malls. A big chunk of their social lives revolved around them.
The Fayetteville Mall opened in 1974 a mile from my house. One of my friends, upon seeing it for the first time, rhapsodized to me on how impressively modern the mall was. That Mall also had a cinema, where I saw my first Star Wars movie.
By the mid 90’s, the Fayetteville Mall was in ruins. Its 70’s structures were crumbling. A decade after that, it was torn down and replaced by a strip mall called the Town Center.
I probably shopped more at Shoppingtown than I did at Fayetteville. Shoppingtown, located in DeWitt, had been one of the first strip malls in my area. It opened in 1954, and was later converted into an indoor mall.
Shoppingtown while located farther from my house than Fayetteville, was still convenient. Twenty years ago, it was always full of shoppers. It was packed at Christmastime, but still busy year round. I was able to do all my Christmas shopping there.
Today there are no stores left at Shoppingtown. The cinema is still running, and there are spaces where people practice sports, such as boxing and gymnastics. But the lights are dim throughout most of the mall, and the place is dismally maintained.
Is Shoppingtown a sign of the future? Certainly so many people are now shopping on line. Yet I somehow think in-person shopping will someday make a comeback.
In the 1950’s, when television became popular, the film industry was in a panic. Hollywood worried that people would henceforth stay home and watch TV rather than go out to the movies. For competition, movies offered such new technologies as Cinerama and 3D.
Today the film industry still has to deal with such TV threats as Netflicks. Nonetheless, the two industries still coexist. Cinemas have survived.
In-person shopping offers the shopper experiences that he or she cannot get on-line. Going to a store allows the shopper to touch, smell and even taste the products.
Above all, the live market allows the shopper to look at, listen to, gossip with and socialize with other shoppers. We need the in-person experience. As Aristotle commented, humans are social animals.
It may be rocky for the next decade or so, but I do believe that in-person shopping will make a significant comeback. Somehow on-line shopping and brick and mortar will find ways to co-exist.