36 thoughts on “The Mall Is Dying (an abbreviated argument)

  1. Alf Rehn

    I cannot understand your argument without

    – a thumbs up/down function
    – a trailer that shows me the end first

    I cannot process your argument

    – as it isn’t made shareable
    – as it is longer than a tweet

  2. Grant Post author

    Alf, yes, I need to turn five slides into one slide and that slide into a phrase and the phrase into a word! Grant

  3. Monika

    In my opinion you’re right.. As the department store lost its importance, the mall is also becoming less and less important. I actually think that concept stores are on the rise. Offline and online. People are seeking more individuality and well curated things and that makes me believe that the next big think when it comes to the analysis of the sociology of consumerism will be the concept store. There is simply such an overwhelming amount of great things that we need someone to curate the best bits.

  4. Monika

    In my opinion you’re right.. As the department store lost its importance, the mall is also becoming less and less important. I actually think that concept stores are on the rise. Offline and online. People are seeking more individuality and well curated things and that makes me believe that the next big thing when it comes to the analysis of the sociology of consumerism will be the concept store. There is simply such an overwhelming amount of great things that we need someone to curate the best bits.

    1. Grant Post author

      Monika, yes, concept stores, staged in the old mall. Thanks! Grant

  5. Ethan


    – Invoke Edward Tufte (Cognitive Style of PPT)
    – Don’t blame hammer, blame carpenter (not PPTs fault)
    – Ha ha ha

    – Commerce role of mall is changing
    – Mall used to be source of innovation for small/midsize communities (“We got a Gap!!!”)
    – Now that level of innovation is ubiquitous (“Look, another Gap…”)
    – LIke the Joe Pine reference: moving ‘up’ the value chain
    – Prevalence of ‘showrooming’ (browse store, buy online)
    – Social role of mall still critical
    – Recreation for families
    – ‘Third space’ for teens
    – Exercise space for elderly
    Not death, but evolution, of malls
    – Was Main Street
    – Became indoor malls in 70s
    – ‘New concept’ outdoor malls of ’00s (Boulder’s 29th Street)
    – Future: ‘new urbanism’ mixed-use ‘designed’ neighborhoods (Bel Mar in Lakewood, CO)
    – Desire to integrate home & play zones
    – Return to pedestrianism and bicycling as desirable (esp. with gas prices going up)
    – Still easier to ‘discover’ things in brick & mortar than online

    1. grant mccracken

      Ethan, excellent analysis, but I’m not getting your opening point. My point was simply simpler is like more better.
      totally agree that the mall still feels like a social center for those living in the suburb. Thanks, Grant

  6. Rachel Mercer

    I’m agree with some of the commentary surrounding the death of the department store.

    But it could be that the mall (in the suburban sense) is dying because there is such an influx of people to urban centers. Is there a need for a mall when most stores / shops / etc have a better / more centralized location? This is essentially the purpose that the mall serves in suburban / less densely populated places.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily the death of shopping out of home, people still crave tactile experiences – but there’s the inherent inconvenience of shopping (which in some cases still exist on the internet – the problem / difficulty of finding what you want), this will likely be decreased in the future when technology and the in-store shopping experience come closer together. Then I don’t have to worry about inventory, or them not having what I want in the right size / color / shape / etc.

    1. Grant Post author

      Rachel, sorry it took me awhile to approve this. Yes, the city is winning out. And now that people are chasing food trucks around same, the mall looks even more clueless. It was a different matter in the 70s when some cities were in a death spiral. Thanks, Grant

  7. Alex

    Interesting. Anecdotally I already do some of this … go visit books in a big box bookstore, and then if I like them, order them at a substantial savings from Amazon. I’ve read past studies on ESPN Zone and American Girl that get to some of your argument regarding the experiential aspects of retail (in addition to what Pine and Gilmour discussed). I think it is a compelling argument, especially because it is the experiential aspects that retail can excel at. I can’t have an immersive, truly sensory-encapsulating experience online (maybe “yet”?).

    As for the points about point-form format, I wonder if this blog is like my big box bookstore experience? I come here to visit the ideas, and then if I like them I order them from Amazon. If that’s true you may want to spruce up the PPT to engage my inner experience junky 😉

  8. Bob van Vliet

    Interesting concept, this ‘point form prose’.

    I think you may be right in that this will show up more and more as a way to make a point (see SlideShare for instance). However, that something is likely to happen doesn’t mean it is inevitable, let alone that it is a Good Thing (see naturalistic fallacy).

    One of the grips I have about this, is that it leaves little room for repetition. Two bullets saying the same thing is very strange, whereas two consecutive sentences making the same point in a different way often strengthens an argument (if executed well, that is).

    This is the same reason books are still a good way to learn things. Spending considerable time with an object that takes you through an argument a few times, approached from different directions seems to really help in not only grasping a concept, but remembering it too.

    Books and essays seem to invite you to engage with their content in a way bullet-point lists don’t. that’s not to say this ‘point form’ doesn’t have advantages of its own, of course.

    1. Grant Post author

      Bob, I agree entirely. Books r always best. But when time is short, and attention spans diminishing… Thanks, Grant

      1. Bob van Vliet

        BTW, did you see Robin Sloan’s ‘tap essay’? It’s kind of the same thing you’re alluding to here: a point by point and very brief argument. In it, he argues for the value of repetition, of coming back to something.

        I found that having his app on my iPad actually did make me do that, thus internalizing his argument thoroughly. It seems an effective implementation of point form prose, built to invite you reading it multiple times.

        It’s at http://www.robinsloan.com/fish/

  9. Amie


    Have you read any of the novels of Jennifer Egan? The format of your post made me think of chapter 12 from “A Visit from the Goon Squad.” I really love her writing. She is able to capture the way technology has influenced our culture in a poignant way.


  10. Michael Powell

    In the future, complete sentences will still be of great interest to many. Not everyone, but many.

    I would suggest that retailers consider the implications for their store form and format strategy, as well as where they decide to place themselves.

    Not every brand, or writer, should be on twitter (e.g. see Jonathan Franzen’s rant on this). But many will be. The forms through which we communicate should be recognized as equally important as the messages we try to communicate. The two are closely linked.

    Good luck with the abbreviation experiment. As for me, I’m sticking to complete sentences. Call me a craft brand, I guess.

    1. Grant Post author

      Michael, agreed, I don’t want brevity for all purposes, just the ones where otherwise people won’t bother with the messages. Then the trade-off isn’t just worth it, it’s necessary. Thanks, Grant

  11. laura

    Hi Grant,

    Sorry I’m kind of late commenting.

    Regarding form, I think you could’ve make it short and sweet (and even in
    bullets!) without having to resort to slides. Another disadvantage of that
    is that the text of your arguments can no longer be indexed by search
    engines –> So sad!

    That you spend time to make it easy for your readers to consume your
    message is good. If your slides don’t reflect this, then it gives the
    impression that you aren’t that concerned with your message after all.
    I suspect you are concerned with your message, and you are willing to
    spend time so your readers can spend less time. Uploading the slide images
    was more difficult for you than just typing into a box, but I’m not sure
    that will be the perception of most of your audience.

    Regarding content, you know I’m a scientist by training, so I like
    empirical evidence. I think the slide didn’t do justice to the “no, it
    isn’t” argument. Most of it was prediction, as compared with the slide
    before. My own anecdotal evidence from mall visits in the US 3-4 years ago
    in various cities (mostly small towns on the east coast, but also in
    western Canada last year) gave me the impression that the mall has already
    been dead for some time now. However isolated data points are not


    1. grant mccracken

      Laura, thanks! I hadn’t thought of the indexing problem. I prefer the visual force of this approach. but I think I was wrong to use the word proposition and evidence, when really what I mean is provocation, and yes provocation. Thanks! Grant

  12. Bill Bishop


    In field artillery, there’s a principle called bracketing the target. First you fire beyond it, then you fire in front of it, and then you tighten the gap before you “fire for effect”. I think you are hitting a little short of the target just like in bracketing you do need to shoot short, but that’s only helpful in the process of getting to the ultimate target. For my money, you need to reach out a little farther to address this topic fully in your approach.

    Turning to content, it seems to me that you provide valid evidence of the weakness and emerging threats to the mall, which is good to see all in one place. However, since it’s the relative strengths and opportunities for the mall that will determine the outcome, I think we need to push harder to get some creative foresight in this area.

    One “baby idea” is to explore the potential synergy that exists for shoppers who turn to both the web and the mall. Strikes me that since all shopping will ultimately be more web influenced, there’s a high likelihood that the mall and online shopping will be ultimately combined in a unique way; i.e. think TV’s impact on radio.

    Additionally, it might be productive to see what foresight can be found in some of the better work done today on need state driven shopping occasions. This perspective parses shopper requirements at a level of detail that might be very helpful.

    Thanks for giving something new a try and I hope you continue to push it forward.

    1. Grant Post author

      Bill, excellent thoughts, and wonderful metaphor. That was the take away in the nineties, wasn’t it? Not that the internet would destroy bricks and mortar but that they would work together. Thanks, Grant

  13. Andrew

    The mall will certainly be different. I’m watching the experiments in adding housing to malls. If you lived in the mall, you wouldn’t have to go there. In many communities, mall complexes are now operating like massive land banks. Lots of opportunity if they’re torn down.

    I’m also a little curious about what you mean by the world “speeding up” and “discourse compressing. For instance, what is the longer form of public oratory that you think the TED talk is replacing?


  14. Julia

    Thank you! I am confident now that I’ll pass the “Argumentation in Research” course exam on Friday.


  15. Pingback: FYC argument idea — Teaching College English

  16. Marie A. Nauppas

    deadmalls.com : internet snobs might balk at the look but it really is one of the most evocative reflections on malls. Open it, sit back, and think of Susan Stewart on nostalgia… wonderful.

    Also ‘demalling’ apparently refers to retaining the stores but breaking the surrounding walls to allow shoppers to feel the wind. In which case, the malls themselves might be an out-of-body experience for the high street…

    As to the form: indeed, its principal virtue is perhaps to evoke sentences (and provoke, indeed).

  17. Rip Booker

    I am fascinated with this particular cultural phenomena. Especially given the economic change which has occurred within the past 5 -7 years as related to how we as a society understand the consumer culture which has been groomed in different ways to buy or how to buy the things we want and/or desire. I remember the rise of the “mall” idea in the 70’s when outdoor shopping centers were more notable in suburban areas. The recession in the early to mid 70’s crushed alot of shopping centers which also became outdated business models as interior shopping space became the rage by the late 70’s and early 80’s which basically replaced the outdoor shopping centers due to obsolescence both physically and economically.
    In a strange way as the economic change occurs, I find myself reminiscent of my mall experince in the 80’s. I used to complain about the suburban sprawl and in particular the malls. Now I realize as am no longer a young idealist. A cultural connection was formed by malls. A destination for young job seekers, entrepreneurs, family outings and so forth. I really hate to say this with any seriousness, but I miss the teenage hangouts at arcades and record stores which has has become the near distant past for me. Re-purposing of malls is the next step as online shopping is the present stage of consumer desire in the 21st century. Anyway, I think the argument has merit as I have witnessed the economic landscape of America undergo a drastic change in the past 5 years.

    1. Grant Post author

      Rip, beautiful, a glimpse of where this thing changes as it runs through a cycle. Thanks, Grant

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