Shopping malls! The mere mention of the words makes our eyes twinkle. We start dreaming of the glitz and glamour all these sprawling spaces offer. The last couple of decades or so have seen a meteoric rise of these arcades in India. They have everything under their roofs…retail outlets, eateries, movie theatres, gaming zones and so much more! These spaces have changed the retail business scenario in the country altogether. All of us prefer to visit a mall than a standalone shop now. Not only we enjoy the ambiance, the malls offer us the opportunity to compare the available options for the same product, rest our legs in between with a cup of coffee and also watch a movie if the mood permits. What more can one ask for?

Ever wondered where this concept of shopping malls originated from? Experts say that most probably the idea had come from the practice of covered bazaars common in the Middle East. That way enclosed shopping centers had existed for more than thousands of years in many places. Then in 1798, the first covered shopping alley was built in Paris. Named the “Passage du Caire”, it is perhaps the first shopping mall the world has seen. The United States got its first shopping center in 1828. The Arcade in Rhode Island came up.

The concept gained popularity with the expansion of the city suburbs and increased use of automobiles in America. People started to prefer going to these shopping arcades rather than visiting downtown for a healthy dose of retail therapy. However, the idea of million-square-foot sprawling shopping centers got generated in the 1920s. The first of its kind opened near Kansas City in 1922.

In the mid-1950s, an Austrian Jewish architect, Viktor David Grünbaum, started to design the first enclosed shopping centers. He wanted to promote communal gatherings with a lively mix of commerce, art, and entertainment. This was his way of recreating what he knew as a child back home in Europe. Covered malls started to come up in every nook and corner.

Then came the concept of giant megamalls. In 1981, the West Edmonton Mall opened in Alberta, Canada. It had more than 800 retail stores, a hotel, amusement park, church, mini-golf course, a lake, a zoo, and what not!

The organized retail trend began in India when Ansal’s Plaza came up in Delhi in 1999. It was followed by Crossroads in Mumbai and Spencer Plaza in Chennai. What followed in the 2000s can be easily called as “The Great Indian Mall Boom”. Malls came up in all the cities and towns and the shoppers started to get used to shopping in neat, clean, and organized environments, where everything is available under one roof.

Malls today are more than the places we go to the shop. It is where we go for an outing, take our friends for dinner, have family gatherings, and much more. These places have become an inseparable part of community living.
Itching for a dose of shopping? Step out and visit your nearest mall! Just make sure you maintain the mandatory social distancing norms. Happy shopping!