Last Thursday, I had to go to Town Center Mall to pick up something for Susan. It was a Thursday evening, between 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM. I parked at my usual place--the east side, near the Macy's doors at the end of the mall.
There were seven cars parked in that section. I had never seen the mall so empty. The first three register stations I passed had employees there, but no customers. There were some people wandering the mall, but far less than normal... or at least, far less than what used to pass for normal.
Of course, my mall habits have changed over the years, so it's not surprising that others' habits have changed as well. During the 1980s and the 1990s, I don't think a week passed that Susan and I didn't go to one mall or the other, whether it was Town Center or Perimeter or Mount Berry Square in Rome. I realized that my trip to Town Center this past week was only the second time this year I have been to Town Center, and only the fourth time this year I have been to any mall. As the malls have ceased being the place where a shopper can find everything (look for a bookstore in most malls and you'll be sadly disappointed... the same holds true for electronics, or music, or the many unusual items that could once be found in the less travelled areas of most shopping malls), I have become more disinterested in what the malls still offer.
Of course, the changes in my own life make me less of a mall customer. I no longer teach, so I no longer have to invest in "work clothes." My wardrobe now comes from the nearby Target, or from an occasional trip to Kohl's. We're not furniture shoppers; our house is overfilled with more furniture than we need, because I can't bring myself to get rid of perfectly good chairs or sofas or tables. I am surrounded by a lifetime of conspicuous consumption.
Apparently, though, there is not another generation of consumers ready to follow in my footsteps at the local mall. I don't know if it's the byproduct of a struggling economy, or an indicator of changing habits that will mark the end of the high-density multi-store shopping mall as a mecca of capitalism. But Thursday night made it clear that the mall is no longer the hub of economic activity that it once was...