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Thoughts on a shopping mall visit

April 6th, 2007 at 12:10 pm

We hardly ever go to a shopping mall. We do most of our shopping at stand-alone stores like Target and Wal-Mart or a couple of large strip centers in our area.

Last night, we dropped our daughter off at Girl Scouts and didn't feel like just going home, so I suggested we wander around the nearby mall. This is a mall that I've been going to since I was a child. It has certainly changed over the years, as I think all malls have. It really struck me last night how incredibly upscale it has become. Very little to appeal to folks of average means, or folks like us of above average means who choose to live below those means.

Years ago, the mall had Woolworths and an independent book shop and a little cafeteria and a craft shop and such. Today, it is populated by Coach and Godiva and Abercrombie and Brooks Brothers and the like. Very few stores that we would ever set foot in and even fewer that we can afford to shop in. Other than the food court, there was very little there that appealed to us.

What also struck me was that the average customer looked to be no more than 25. Surely all these teens and young adults can't be earning nearly enough to truly afford the prices of these stores. It isn't hard to see how so many people get so deeply in debt if this is where they are choosing to shop.

I miss the simplicity and down-to-earth shopping that we had years ago. There was a great book a few years ago called "Trading Up" that talked about this phenomenon of how as our nation has become more prosperous, everyone has upgraded their normal level of goods. Instead of Maxwell House coffee, its Starbucks. Instead of a Buick, its a Lexus. Instead of vacationing at the shore, its Cancun.

I'm not sure what my point is, but I can tell you that I won't be visiting the mall again anytime soon.

22 Responses to “Thoughts on a shopping mall visit”

  1. Elly Says:

    I totally agree! We hardly shop at malls because of the prices. They're out of control...and you're right, there is probably no way the shoppers are able to really afford what they're buying.

  2. nance Says:

    Can you imagine what their credit card debt will be by the time they are forty? Scary.
    My daughter tells me that Abercrombie is huge with kids now. Girls want Coach bags, and clothes from high end stores. I know one kid who called his mother at work, from school, and chewed her out because he had to wear clothes that were different brands, because the laundry wasn' t done.
    Apparently, it is not acceptable at his school, to wear Ralph Lauren shirts with Tommy Hilfiger jeans, and a third brand of socks! The parents indulge these kids, and then wonder why they are such brats.
    I fear they are going to be in for a rude awakening when they are on their own.

  3. disneysteve Says:

    Who the hell knows what kind of socks you are wearing? I guess my 3 pairs for $6.99 ones from Target wouldn't be too popular.

    A couple of weeks ago at temple, the topic of Coach bags came up when a bunch of us were talking and our one friend pulled out her latest purchase from there. I know the bag was a minimum of $325 and probably more. I wanted to go in the store and find out for sure but my wife refused to even go in (I knew I loved her for a reason). My wife said she doesn't think she has spent a combined total of $325 on handbags her entire adult life.

  4. fairy74 Says:

    I agree totally. I miss the old Woolworths a lot! It's ridiculous how younger and younger kids are being molded to present an image, without developing a personality. Just pitiful! I had a former boss who's daughter couldn't decide which pieces of Abercrombie she "needed" most....so my boss had us order every girl item in the catalog....just insane!

  5. Ima saver Says:

    I haven't been to the mall in over 5 years. I never shop in those stores. The most expensive purse I have ever had was $25 and it has lasted me for over 5 years. When I use to go, it was mostly to go to bookstores or I might look in Penny's or sears.

  6. scfr Says:

    You're absolutely right, and the same thing is true for houses. The media keeps talking about the way the median home prices have grown exponentially, but they forget to mention that 30 years ago the median house was probably 500-1,000 sq ft smaller, had 1-3/4 baths (instead of the requisite 2.5 or more today), and no one dreamed of putting granite on their coutertops!

    Oh, but I do have to stick up for Coach. Smile I don't know how the quality today compares, but I have a small Coach shoulder bag I bought almost 20 years ago that I still use and is still in great condition. It really is a quality bag that will probably last me forever. I guess this works for me because I don't care about trends so I feel no need to replace things unless they actually wear out; this particular bag has probably cycled in and out of fashion a few times since I bought it!

  7. jodi Says:

    I too have found myself wandering around the mall wondering what could possibly interest me there. I'll take my garage sales and thrift stores anyday...much more interesting to shop at, better variety, and SO much cheaper.

  8. newlyfrugal Says:

    The only reason we go to the mall in our area these days is for the FREE children's play area, which is a life saver on frigid winter days. Everything else is too expensive and unnecessary. Who wants to shop somewhere that you can't even buy toilet paper? Ridiculous!

  9. PauletteGoddard Says:

    Elsewhere I'd blogged about a walk we made to the mall, to scout for gifts for friends getting married this spring. The mall had monitors displaying advertisements (coz the stores and ads in the kiosks aren't enough enticements themselves to shop, I imagine) suspended from the ceiling, in the vestibule.

    Last night, to reward my family for coming to the office with me while I submitted my hours, I took them to Coldstone Creamery. Walking back to the car, we saw huge vehicles, commandeered by young people who didn't turn the headlights on (but they could find the heavy bass on the stereo - GO FIGURE), cruising up and down the short lanes in the mall complex.

    I vow it's going to be Target, Costco and online shopping.. It's almost as if the mall management is going out of its way to make the experience as unpleasant as possible.

  10. disneysteve Says:

    Paulette - You and I may find it unpleasant, but the mall was quite crowded when we went. My wife even commented about it, since it was a weekday evening (although it is Spring Break). They didn't seem to be hurting for business at all. And shoppers were carrying bags. I noticed customers at the registers at many stores we passed.

    As I said, it seemed to be primarily teens and 20-somethings. Either that or senior citizens (who were probably walking and socializing more than shopping). Being somewhere in the middle of that age range, we just don't seem to fit the target demographic anymore.

  11. baselle Says:

    You know, I don't think this is entirely a trading up phenomena - its more of a divergence. Its either Walmart or Tiffany, nothing in the middle.

    Brava, scfr - your big secret, which no 20-something wants to follow - is if you are going to buy a quality brand name, treat it like a classic and use it for 20 years. The final sad thing is that the average mall buyer will buy something, use it for a few weeks, then buy something new.

    Oh yes, I love the mall. I use the mall to find out what I'll see at the yard sale/thrift store in two-three years. Smile

  12. livingalmostlarge Says:

    I'm in my 20s (okay late), but we've never been mall walkers. It helps keep the spending at a minimum. In fact the last time we walked a mall was Christmas, and before that the Christmas before. I needed ideas for gifts.

    It's horrible. I hated malls when I was a teenager, but then again I was out having more fun outside a mall! I can't imagine what's so fun about walking around the mall.

    We're a consuming society. I read that book "Trading Up" it was very interesting. How the nice golf clubs are common like luxury cars. Everything is super fine now. No one lives cheaply.

  13. T_I_N_A20 Says:

    I can't stand malls anymore. I used to love shopping but these days, the malls are turning high tech and ugly especially the clothes. I heard that in the 21st century, the church is replaced by the mall. It's true @.@.

  14. disneysteve Says:

    I think another part of the problem is disposable income and lack of savings. When you are 20, still living at home, no rent, minimal financial responsibilities and bringing home a paycheck for the first time in your life, you've got lots of disposable income. Saving for retirement isn't on your radar. When you are a bit more mature (i.e. older), you've now got a mortgage, taxes, a family to support and retirement is more of a reality so you aren't so quick to fork over your hard earned money for the latest trendy blouse or handbag.

    As for buying quality that lasts, I definitely agree with that - sometimes. But I can tell you what my wife said regarding the Coach bags. She said if her $15 leather bag gets scratched or stained, she doesn't feel so bad replacing it with another $15 leather bag. However, if she had a $400 bag that got scratched or stained, she'd be pretty upset. We will buy high quality, more costly items that we know will hold up, but something more delicate we'll usually stick with the cheaper option.

  15. KEALINA Says:

    i definately agree about the shopping malls.. in general we avoid them and feel a little out of place when we do go and walk around...

    like scfr, i do need to stand up for coach bags though. I'm not a fan of the newer signature fabric styles but really enjoy their leather products. I have found them to have a high quality (several of mine are at least 10 years old) for a decent price, especially if you buy them secondhand like i do..

    "Brava, scfr - your big secret, which no 20-something wants to follow - is if you are going to buy a quality brand name, treat it like a classic and use it for 20 years. "
    lol baselle, can you make an exception for me? maybe say most "normal" 20-something year olds? Wink "average mall buyer will buy something, use it for a few weeks, then buy something new."
    i do know what you mean tho...i know people who do exactly what you say... buy something, use it a little bit, tire of it and buy something new... it makes me cringe although it does save me money when i get everything they don't want anymore...

    disneysteve,
    i would have said the same thing as your wife before i started carrying my purse around.. in fact, i would still say the same thing because i still wouldn't pay retail for a coach purse..
    i think that if your wife would like to try it out, she could do worse than to buy and try out a second hand coach.. if you're patient and keep looking, she can probably find one that doesn't cost too much just to see if she likes it...i know i've seen people sell nice ones at the swap meet for under $10-50 depending on the size and style...

    lol.. sorry about the tangent... i do agree about the mall... it's only a few miles away and we generally avoid it whenever possible...

  16. gruntina Says:

    I went to the shopping mall after an audiologist appointment since I was in the neighborhood. I remember being able to find nice clothing%u2019s on sales in the clearance rack in the same price range as the Target clothing%u2019s I usually buy.

    Wow how time has changed! I immediately felt sick with the busyness and too many eye catching items and storefronts. I was hoping to get something for my honeymoon night and a nice simple dress for my bridal shower. Sleuthing around for something I can use, I left with nothing!!! After 30 minutes, I have missed my Target store! I get many compliments at work and from friends on my purse. They usually asked me where I got it so they can get one too. It was a Wal-Mart purse for $9 and it%u2019s actually very durable so far... I was impressed since it was the one time I went to Wal-Mart in the last 5 years. (Target fan here)

  17. pjmama Says:

    hehe. I try to shop at the mall as little as possible. And when I do I'm definitely a "clearance shopper." I personally cant take watching 12 year olds walking around in skimpy clothing and carrying handbags that would take three nights tips to purchase (and I make good tips!)... These kids dont necessarily have money, but a lot of the time thier parents do. I dont know where thier parents feel giving a child that kind of money to go off and shop. It certainly doesn't teach them any amount of responsibility when it comes to money. More times than not, that's WHY they end up running credit cards when they're in high school. It's sad... I dont have a credit card, and dont even want one.

  18. nika Says:

    To those who bought Coach bags years ago -- they used to be a good quality/price ratio, not anymore. They feel that just putting their logo on it now justifies ever higher price tag. The wallets used to be small, smooth, seamless soft leather, flawless. Now they are charging more for a bulky, rough to the touch wallet that does not even compare with what they had 5 years ago. Many companies do. That is the thing that frustrates me most at the malls. Most high-end designer combanies that got their names because of style/quality now feel they can just charge for the name while letting quality go downhill. Their prices are no longer justified. But people still buy.

  19. scfr Says:

    Thanks, nika - Good to know. I suspected what you said was true, because when I see young women carrying Coach bags now the name or letter C is splashed all over it. The bag I have, it just has the name embossed on the inside so you would never know it was Coach unless you were the owner or recognized the style. It is sad when a quality company gets overly concerned with promoting its name.... but if that is how they can make the most profit, who can blame them.

    Sorry to get a bit off subject, disneysteve.

    BTW, I was trying to remember the last time I was at a shopping mall and I can't remember. I think it has been about a year. Malls hold no interest for me at all. My husband & I did go hang out at an outlet mall when our power was out for 6 days last winter because it was toasty warm (the power was on there) and was next to an all-you-can-eat buffet that we went to gorge on milk and fresh produce and seafood since all the food in our fridge had to be dumped ... but we did not buy a thing, so I guess that doesn't really count, does it?

  20. RobertR Says:

    I know what you're saying and I used to be surprised too by how so many young people were "living it up". But my views have changed somewhat after noticing that so many young 20 and 30 somethings are earning far more money than my generation even does today. Even in the company I work for I've essentially reached the highest point I'll get to before retiring and my pay is in the low $100,000 range, but we hire 22 year old computer programmers starting at $70,000. A typical project leader in our technology group is in his late 20s or early 30s and we pay them around $100,000 per year - which is what I make at twice their age in the same company. I don't even want to get into the outrageous salaries of the Wall Street crowd. Most of these people are young and making high six figures or even millions in yearly bonuses. The good law firms which all keep their pay in line with one another for associates now pay $165,000 for first year lawyers plus a bonus. That means 25 year olds making close to $200,000 at the lowest point in their career. Remember the real estate bubble which now shows signs of bursting has been a big factor as well. A lot of young people are the ones who get attracted to real estate speculation in hot markets because they haven't seen a bad real estate market. I personally know of several people who felt rich over the last few years because of their real estate wealth but now they're realizing that isn't real money.

    I read an article on MSN last year that tried to squash the notion that Americans are heavily into credit card debt. It showed that the majority of Americans have ZERO credit card debt, and then of the people that do most have very little, it is just that there is a small percentage of the population that has a huge amount of credit card debt and they skew the results. So I don't think all those people in the malls are going into debt, most of them probably just earn more than you or save less than you or both.

  21. disneysteve Says:

    Robert, that's a good point and probably explains some of what I see at the mall. I also think your final sentence about them earning more or saving less or both is true, especially the saving less part.

    On the other hand, I work with two girls in their 20's. I know exactly how much they earn and I see how they live, what they wear, where they shop, etc. We talk about that stuff regularly. Both have freely admitted that they are lousy at saving money and really have nothing in savings. They live paycheck to paycheck for no good reason other than their own behavior. They earn enough that they could be putting a decent amount aside each paycheck but they blow it all on consumer purchases.

    If I spent all of my take home pay, I could be out shopping at the mall for my stuff, too. Instead, I choose to invest upwards of 17% of my GROSS pay which is around 24% of take home because I don't want to live paycheck to paycheck and I want to retire someday while I'm still young enough to enjoy it.

  22. RobertR Says:

    I hope I didn't come across the wrong way, I do completely agree with you that the younger generation today is much too much into consumerism and buying things they shouldn't afford. They're going to have a nasty wake up call one day when they need a large amount of money for something or if their paycheck stops. But I also think that this younger generation has many more higher income earners than my generation ever did. The gap between the well-educated and moderately-educated amongst the 20/30 something crowd has widened. Young people that go into technology or finance earn quite a lot, and their peers try to emulate their lifestyles. Just my opinion.

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