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The malls shed their stores and the people shed their malls ( 0) Printer friendly page Print This
By Les Blough, Editor. Axis of Logic
Axis of Logic
Saturday, Apr 25, 2009

The Lakes Mall in Muskegon, Michigan occupies 4.4 million square feet of land and leases over 593,000 sq. ft. to stores. Charles Lebovitz, CEO of CBL, the developer of Lakes Mall, boasts his company's 52 enclosed malls, 157 properties in 26 states totaling 55.9 million square feet and 6 new malls under construction. (Sources: All Business; photo)

Based on a study conducted by Reis, a NY real estate research firm, CNN reports that shopping malls in the U.S. are in big trouble. Writing for CNN, Parija B. Kavilanz reported that:

  • Strip malls, neighborhood centers and regional malls are losing stores at the "fastest pace in at least a decade"

  • In just the first quarter of 2009, store owners moved out of 8.7 million square feet of commercial space. That's more in one quarter than the 8.6 millionsquare feet of retail space they vacated in all of 2008.

  • There was a whopping 9.5% increase in mall store vacancies in the first quarter. This outstripped the 8.9% vacancy rate registered in all of 2008. This was the largest single-quarter jump in mall store vacancies since the real estate research firm began publishing quarterly figures in 1999. It would surprise us if it's not the biggest jump since malls were first developed in the early 1960s.

  • These record numbers are "symptomatic", says the director of research at Reis, "of the pervasive weakness we're seeing across economic sectors".

CNN summed up what they see as the negative effects on the people:

"The consequence for consumers: Fewer stores to shop and less product choice."

So we are losing mall stores and their massive array of products. What a sad thing this is ... that is for people like Charles Lebovitz, developer/owner of the Lakes Mall in Michigan, shown in the aerial photo above.

More stores and more "product choice" are precisely what we do not need - anywhere in the world. U.S. malls losing business and stores is one of the positive side-effects of the collapse of capitalism. Its good news for our planet and ourselves. 

Effects of Malls on Mother Earth

Pavement: Shopping Malls contribute significantly to environmental problems as they occupy and pave massive tracts of land for buildings, parking lots and roads. There were 46,000 shopping malls in the United States, according to the 2008 U.S. Census. The impact on the environment by shopping malls and overpavement is staggering.

Pavement now covers more about 60 thousand square miles in the U.S., 2% of the total surface area and 10% of all arable land. This is an area nearly the size of the State of Oklahoma (68667 sq. miles). The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that roads take up about 11.1 million acres of land (not including road shoulders and median areas). They also estimate that parking lots take between 1.2 and 1.9 million acres of land.

The Baton Rouge Planning Commission (Louisiana) describes some of the effects of pavement on the environment:

"Water resources and water quality are now threatened with large-scale paving. Increasing acres of impervious surfaces lead to higher runoff water volumes, larger and more frequent incidents of flooding, and extended periods of below-normal stream levels. Development patterns also lead to diminished ground water recharge and various negative effects like increased sedimentation, increased water acidity, and higher water temperatures. Water quality in many rivers, lakes, and estuaries is degraded to a level where those water bodies can no longer support basic uses like fishing and swimming, and cannot be depended on as sources of clean drinking water."

Transportation and Energy: The bellies of the shopping malls are insatiable, demanding more and more material things in greater and greater varieties from every continent on earth. Powerful mind-bending advertising firms convince us and our children that we must have the latest brand name or plastic toy. Even when parents have better values and a strong desire to teach their children, it's difficult to compete with the TV and the trip to the mall. Shipping these products thousands of miles to the malls by containership or air, adds the energy costs to the final price paid by the consumer, not to speak of the environmental damage caused by energy consumption and shipping.

Consumerism: The consumerism created by shopping malls adds to our environmental problems immeasurably. Mall stores have to buy, stock and sell massive amounts of "things" in order to compete, pay their costs to mall owners, gain a profit and survive. They have turned shopping for goods into a recreational activity with many people "going to the mall on Saturday", not because they need what they end up buying, but rather because they have lost their love for a walk in the park, or family time, reading, working on their own creations and the things that really make life worth living. We have all witnessed it: A great many of the things purchased by mall-goers has a short life in the home. From there it migrates to the garage to occupy the space meant for the car, then some of it might get sold used at pennies on the dollar in a garage sale and the rest ends up in land fills, much of it non-biodegradable. Malls produce nothing. They simply dump more plastic on the land and their owners take their cut at the expense of the store owner, the buyer, the worker and the earth itself. 

The Developers' Defense

The big developers brush off criticism by citing the benefits they bring to a community which are either trifling or simply untrue.

Social Cohesion: One of the silliest claims they make is that the malls serve as places for social gathering and cohesion and say they create jobs. Believe it or not, the corporate media has even tried to sell us the Malls as our new modern churches, where people go to find meaning in their lives! Of course this nonsense is written and broadcast in defense of the capitalist system. What can be more socially alienating when walking through a mall with strangers looking for something that you might want to buy? Compare that experience with going to a small neighborhood store where the owners and workers know you by your own name and even know your preferences.

Net Job Loss: Many studies have revealed a net job loss after a big shopping mall opens near a community. Big shopping malls replace many of the small shops on Main Street and the people owned and work in them. The smaller retail stores in malls can be run with fewer staff at greater profit. Using touch tone kiosks in the larger stores has become commonplace for customer self-pricing of merchandise, finding merchandise and self-checkout lines, replacing their own $6-$8/Hr. cashiers. One kiosk manufacturer in California, North Communications, markets their kiosks to the malls under the heading, "Fewer Workers". Small stores and businesses are eliminated in towns by the big suburban malls because the customer base of the small stores is drawn away from them by aggressive advertising, attractions like kiddie rides and movie theatres, "one stop shopping" and the illusion that merchandise is cheaper at the mall.

Efficiency: Mall developers and owners try to convert the same arguments made against them into their own defense. They argue that they replace the downtown stores with more efficient retail outlets. The typical mall with perhaps hundreds of air-conditioned stores and common area is more efficient than small stores where the owner watches his energy costs and can control his own store temperature? They cite the consumer who only has to drive his/her car to one location to do all their shopping (lower gas consumption). But they ignore the culture of consumerism, and many recreational trips made to their malls. They ignore traffic problems their malls have created. They argue that the owners of the hardware store and dress shop who lost their businesses in town have been replaced by other store owners in the mall. But they ignore the histories of those store owners, their families and the community they served for generations.

Summary and Conclusion

The buildings, pavement and consumerism created by Malls destroy farm land, wetlands, jobs, neighborhoods and social cohesion. They contaminate or eliminate the clean water supply and contribute to global warming through heat produced from pavement. They create and support massive global shipping and transportation of products we don't need, eliminate small businesses and jobs, degrade wages and impoverish the nation.

The negative impact of shopping malls on the terrain of the human mind, converting core humanistic values into stark materialism and conspicuous consumption is immeasurable. We should not shed tears for the demise of the places where our purses, the environment, food and water supply, sense of community and the human mind are constantly being mauled.


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