The history of shopping malls go as far as 1922 when the
first shopping mall was opened near Kansas City. Ever since then, it has passed
the test of time and has become a part of the economy and modern day retail. In
the early days the malls were more like shopping centres with similar type of
accessories and products being available all over. It had a series of small
specialty shops leading via a pathway towards a departmental store. This store
acted as the anchor to attract the crowd. The idea was to attract people to the
anchor store who would indulge in shopping in the specialised store on their
way. These centres were ideally situated near the highway with free parking
facilities. “The enclosed, climate-controlled indoor mall was introduced by
Victor Gruen, an Austrian refugee from the Nazis, at the Southdale Shopping
Center in Edina, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, in 1956”. The enclosed,
indoor model with controlled temperature became famous and after a time open
air shopping centres were not preferred at all.

By 1970’s it was reported that Americans were spending more
time in the shopping mall that any other place, other than work or home. The “mom
and pop” stores, individual specialized shops lost its charm. People of all age
group started thronging the shopping malls. They regarded it as a clean,
convenient, safe and cheerful place compared to other downtown stores. It had
become a place where senior citizens could roam around securely in comfort,
where parents take their kids to see Santa Claus, teenagers socialize and
singles court. People preferred going there when there was nothing better to
do. Thus it lead to a study which felt that “there is something social going on
in the mall”. Part of the success of the retail mall was attributed to the
socially stimulating environment that it offered. People felt more satisfied
after visiting a shopping mall because of the level of social interaction they
had. This was found through a study where the composition of people visiting a
downtown shopping area and the local shopping mall was compared, along with it
social behaviour in the shopping mall and the stores in mall were compared to
that of stores that were situated in shopping centres or downtown shopping
district. This study gave a detailed insight into the Psychology of the people
visiting the shopping mall and the reason they prefer to go there compared to
other shopping areas.

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It was found that people preferred going to malls either in
large groups or single. This suggested that the reason for this behaviour was
because the mall supported social interaction. Studies have shown that the
social nature and atmosphere of the mall contributes to its profitability and
popularity. Consumers find a motive, be it social or psychological, to go to
malls and purchase beyond the necessary purchases. These are mainly that type
of consumers who view shopping as a social and recreational outing than a
necessity. “The retail trade center has historically been the setting for
cultural and social events. In contemporary society, the shopping mall is the
retail trade center. It is an arena which fosters community interaction and
exchange of information, a function previously served by the farmers market,
the church, or the pub”. The social interaction in the shopping mall was more
akin to that of the local farmers market than the super market. This happened
because the interactions that happened within the people visiting the malls and
amongst the buyers and shop owners in the mall was of the similar intensity of
that of the local farmers market. In a typical farmers market, the sellers and
buyers engage in conversations thereby increasing the satisfaction level.
However a typical supermarket does not encourages customer engagement at that
level, and without any additional incentive to be there other than the purpose
of buying things, people feel more attracted towards a shopping mall compared
to that. The image of a store present inside a mall and the one situated in the
downtown shopping district was different as well. People tend to prefer the
stores in the mall compared to the store outside as it felt more sociable. This
factor reinforces consumers buying behaviour.

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