Built to revive the city of Hawthorne, California, the Hawthorne Plaza Mall opened in 1977 hoping to bring a new renaissance to the city. Three anchor department stores were located here: Montgomery Wards, JCPenney, and a large three-story Broadway store. Today, it is a ghost-town.
The mall struggled due to low income in the area but endured for almost three decades. The nail in the coffin came as the result of the Dot Com Boom and the rise of e-commerce causing the mall to finally close in 1999.
The same picture can be witnessed all across America as brick-and-mortar retailers are dying a slow and painful death - a scenario so common that there is an entire website dedicated to it.
Pre-Internet consumer culture
During the heyday of America’s consumer culture, so called “Mega-malls” mushroomed all over the country as they were constantly one-upping each other in a race to see who will get the title of the “Biggest Mall in the Country.” These Mega Malls were not only places for shopping but also for leisure and entertainment, serving as a modern-day town square where people could meet, shop, eat, and hang out.
The ideology driving the Mega Mall boom was to encourage consumers to buy and spend, for stores to hire employees, all for the sake of boosting the nation’s GDP growth. The venues filling these huge spaces attracted shoppers with their rock bottom prices, theme-parks, swimming pools, sport-related attractions, movies theaters, and restaurants.
In fact, these spaces were so huge that people could easily spend the whole day wandering around abandoning oneself to the whims and impulses evoked by the shopper’s paradise.
Post-Internet consumer culture
The biggest reason for the decline of the Mega Mall is falling attendance. An ever-increasing number of people are choosing to shop online and for good reason: it’s much more convenient and cheaper. Online retailers save money on overhead costs and pass the savings on to the consumer.
As a result internet sales reached 6% of total retail spending in the 4Q of 2013, doubling their share from 2006.
More and more retailers have been focusing more on the online end of the business. Glen Murphy, CEO of Gap, which is almost synonymous with the American mall, says that brick-and-mortar malls are no longer viable.
“Culturally, the business pivoted towards digital, “Mall traffic, for a number of years, has been slowing down. Whether it continues to decline somewhat over time, I think that’s realistic to assume,” said Murphy in an interview with the New Yorker.
The late 90s saw the emergence of such online retail giants as Amazon and Ebay, which, today, are multi-billion dollar, international companies.
The retail landscape has been completely transformed since the advent of the Internet so much that the two distinct periods of modern-age retail can be classified as Before Internet (B.I.) and After Internet (A.I.)
Bitcoin and the Decline of the Bank
Many Bitcoin-enthusiasts have touted it as a liberating tool for the unbanked, the underbanked and just about everyone else who is at a disadvantage in today’s economic paradigm. Think of Bitcoin as the internet of money. In other words, what the internet did for information and retail, Bitcoin could do for currency.
Today, a person doesn’t have to physically leave his home to get a newspaper to know what’s going on in the world, nor does he have to physically drive to the mall to buy a t-shirt. The internet has completely turned that whole notion upside down and perhaps one of the last lingering elements of the old economic model is the means of exchange itself i.e. currency.
Essentially, technology has leapfrogged the banking sector which is also going to become obsolete. Just like malls, people will no longer want to drive to a bank or scramble to find the nearest ATM to take out cash so they can pay for something when they don’t have to.
Instead, the entire decentralized banking sector will be right in their smartphones as any person could scan their QR-code to buy something or send money to anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye. Oh, and did I mention that this will cost almost nothing compared to the staggering fees, withdrawal charges, and interest rates people pay just to use banking services!
Some of the advantages over tradition banking and fiat currency include:
As consumers become more aware of the obvious advantages of Bitcoin over traditional banking, then, perhaps, your local Wells Fargo or Bank of America branch will too resemble a desolate mega mall somewhere in middle America.
Below are just some of the so-called zombie malls that can be seen across the United States:
These are not pictures of Detroit but rather other pictures from other cities across the USA.
Rolling Acres was opened in 1975 with numerous subsequent expansions. It consisted of over 140 stores. It was shuttered on December 31, 2013 and abandoned as it was too expensive to tear down.
Hawthorne Plaza Mall: Hawthorne, California.
Hawthorne Plaza was opened in 1977 with the hopes of breathing new life into the decaying city of Hawthorne but those dreams were never realized. It included 134 stores; the mall was out of business by the late 90s.
Cloverleaf mall: City of Chesterfield, VA
Cloverleaf was opened in 1972 with 40 stores belonging to JC Penney, Sears and Thalhimers. Sears and Penney’s both had auto repair shops in front of the mall facing Midlothian Turnpike.
The owners did a major renovations sometime during the late 80s/early 90s with the addition of A Frederick's of Hollywood, Victoria's Secret, a food court (taken from the space vacated by the cinema, which was moved to the back of the parking lot), several jewelry stores, Sears remaining but only one storey along with JC Penney’s, Waldenbooks, and some other small stores.
Now it is a virtual ghost town -- Sears and Penney’s have closed their doors because of falling attendance. Hecht’s closed their doors in June 2003, to begin their Cloverleaf going-out-of business sale. The theaters are also closed.
North Towne Square Mall, Toledo, Ohio
It opened in 1980 on the north side of Toledo, adjacent to the Michigan state border. Originally, the mall featured three major anchor stores, as well as several shops and restaurants, plus a movie theater. Changes in demographics and consolidations of anchor stores over time caused the mall to decline. The mall was out of business in 2005 and was officially closed in 2005.
Woodville Mall, Northwood, Ohio