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Finances & Money

Dead Stores = Dead Malls = Unruly Teens in Your Hometown!

CNN just published a story about the decline of malls threatening communities, but they left out an important side effect of malls closing.

Before I tell you (or you guess from the title), I’ll recap the article. It talks about the huge number of stores closing in malls, thus threatening the mall’s overall stability, even causing many to close. But when a mall closes, it’s hard to start it back up. Consider that you need to reoccupy it with dozens of new stores and at least one or two major anchor stores.

The author ponder whether America is “Over-stored” and the market is just correcting itself, much like during the housing boom earlier this decade. Personally, I think developers got greedy and ignored what competitors were doing just on the other side of town. They didn’t think that perhaps there weren’t enough people in the community to support two, three or five malls at once. They had blinders on and were only looking at their own profit, while disregarding the reality that it was a short-term number.

I still see this happening with housing and office developments. We’re in the worst housing and economic crisis in decades, yet developers are still building giant condo complexes, office parks and apartment buildings. I just can’t see how there’s still a market, yet they keep building…and then complain when no one is buying.

But back to the original point, let’s discuss the side effect of closing malls that the author left out:

Local teens need someplace to go!

Back when I was a teen, I hung out at our local mall with my friends. It was the thing to do because, if you lived in central PA or any other semi-rural area in the country, the mall was the only place to go. Well, that and the movies, which were probably at the mall too.

We would go to people watch, pretend to hit on girls (I was too fat and dorky to actually approach a girl), play at the arcade and just generally lounge around and goof off. We would just walk back and forth through the mall for hours every day during the summer.

In recent trips to the malls in my hometown and my current home, I noticed that teens still “cruise the mall”, but not as much as when I was young because of the advent of the internet. But for all those little podunk towns where the mall is still the main gathering place for kids, where will they go if the mall closes?

In my mid-teens, a new mall opened up about a mile away from the original mall. It was a longer walk for me to get to, but it quickly because the place to go. The old mall quickly fell to the wayside. The new mall had Boscov’s, BonTon, Sears and even Walmart (on the outskirts), while the old mall had, well, Kmart. Luckily we had a backup mall when the old one shut down, but today’s kids might not have that luxury.

If the economy continues its downward spiral, malls will become ghost towns, attracting only dollar store bargain shoppers and those old people in pink sweatpants who walk at 6am. Teens won’t want to hang out with grandma at Kmart, so they’ll have to find somewhere else to go.

And where will they go? Yep, you guessed it. They’re coming to your house.

Photos by karindalziel and andy54321

About the author

Clever Dude


  • It’s so true – the teens need someplace to go. One of our neighboring villages doesn’t have anyplace for teens to “hang out” and they have such problems with vandalism, fights (things bored kids do). Our village has a youth center where they can go play video games, watch a movie on Friday nights (all free – funded through private donations) and our local pizza places are pretty lenient with letting the kids hang out there as long as they behave. It makes a world of difference.

  • @susan

    We have the opposite problem here. The malls had to institute a policy where no one under 18 can be in the mall without adult supervision after a certain hour.

    The large groups of kids were staring to cause problems that escalated into a large fight at one of the malls (up to 200 kids were involved, and several were stabbed).

  • i grew up in a tourist town without a mall. So on Friday and Saturday nights, we would cruise in our cars between Hastings and Taco Bell. When Hastings kicked up out at 11pm; Denny’s (the only place open after 11) had to deal with us.

    The big stores in our town were K-mart, Wal-Mart and JC Penneys; there werent any other choices.

  • I grew up in the heart of Houston, and the malls were definitely one of my favorite hangouts as a teen. In college I met some kids who grew up in really tiny towns, and it sounded like there was much more drinking and trouble-making because, like you said, there wasn’t really anywhere else to go or anything else to do. Not that promoting consumerism is the best thing, but it is a fun place to stroll around with your friends and grab a bite to eat. I am interested to see how many malls fail in this recession. I think our country really did build more malls and stores than we could have ever possibly needed.

  • Growing up I was the same way, and this was as cell phones was slowly becoming the norm. Would always go to the mall in middle school on friday nights. Usually for a movie, food, or walk around and act like dorks. Either way it was a nights activity. A lot of malls have become more cautious about teens in groups. I don’t know if this is having an affect on malls as a whole, but something to think about.

    I agree, seems like an overcrowding of stores, but mall’s need attractions, and without them they won’t survive.

  • here is what i blame in order for malls closing:

    1. walmart, no explanation needed.

    2. elderly. the old people cannot park their cars in the parking lot to begin with, so there are less parking spaces. Next, they get in the way when you want to shop, and don’t believe in courtesy. Just because you were alive when Mr. Roebuck was born, it doesn’t mean you get to stand in the same spot for hours on end in Sears when i want to buy something. Finally, they linger in the food court…they shoo out teenagers with disposal income for loitering…but yet, elderly can loiter with their 60 cent cup of coffee from McDonalds for hours on end.

    3. the same freaking stores…too many stores with different names that serve the same purpose….really…yankee candle factory next to the bath and body works store…really.

    4. stupid kiosks….has anyone ever bought a stupid whirley helicopter from one of them?

    5. no bans on baby strollers…no, i am not “anti kids” or anything, i love kids, but really, during christmas, have some consideration, you do not need to bring the h2 version of a stroller out, a simple chevy nova will suffice.

    everyone was a teenager at one time, and just pushing the kids out into the streets will cause everyone more harm in the end…and people will stupidly ask “what is wrong with these kids”.

  • When kids hang out in malls, shoplifting increases. Security needs increase. Power needs increase. Maintenance requirements increase. Rents go up, prices go up, people go to Wal Mart to shop.

    I don’t see teens hanging out in malls as the solution, they need to be in activities or under adult supervision, not loitering w/ time on their hands.

    As far as hanging out in malls as a teenager, no I didn’t do it. We had the beach, school acitivities, after school jobs, homework, sports, church, etc. The kids hanging out at the mall were the “bad” kids anyway, the ones smoking & having sex in parking lots.

    In Norfolk, VA an empty mall (Waterside) was converted into a nightspot & has brought in more revenue as an adult nightspot w/ many different restaurants & clubs than they ever did as a mall.

    I agree though, we have too many stores & too many malls.

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