image of mall interior

Malls: The End of an Era

By: Michelle Manganiello 

Writer

If you are from the Alpharetta or Roswell area, you would recognize the words “North Point Mall” anywhere. This is where you got your American Girl doll at the American Girl store, where you made your first bear at Build-A-Bear, or where you met your friends in the food court or on the carousel. This was the place to be if you were in middle school or even in your early high school years. If you are not from the Johns Creek or Alpharetta area, know this: North Point Mall has been the center of life and the main economic driver in this area for years.

However, this phenomenon has recently changed. As one walks through the mall now, even on a Saturday, they are met with empty stores and a quiet food court. No longer is one met with the jovial screams and laughs of children begging their parents for one last pretzel from Auntie Anne’s or the posse of teenagers that walk around with their newfound independence.

It seems to be that the mall is now more of a place where people go for convenience rather than the fun of it. If someone is in the Northpoint Parkway area and they need a quick energy boost, Target, Chick-fil-A or Starbucks are all in close proximity. It takes a bit more work to park at the mall, walk in and take the escalator to the second floor food-court, rather than just to go through the drive-through at Chick-fil-A. What’s more, Northpoint is now competing with the recently built outdoor mall, Avalon, just up Highway 400.

From all the high-end stores, like American Threads, Kendra Scott and LuLu Lemon, to the apartments above the stores and the ice-skating rink in winter, Avalon seems to have it all.  It also houses a Regal movie theatre and many restaurants. Consequently, stores like Apple have moved there from North Point Mall in hope for more business at this attractive center for entertainment.

One last reason for North Point’s bleary state at the moment is the increasing popularity of online stores like Amazon.com. Amazon’s net revenue has been increasing steadily over the years, and in 2017 alone it hit $177.9 billion– it’s highest number yet. One must also consider the convenience of Amazon; consumers can order whatever they want from their fingertips to their front door, rather than driving to a mall and looking for the item in person.

Despite these hurdles, North Point is doing its best to crowd its corridors once again. North Point will be utilizing the space previously occupied by Sears to build apartments and add more green space. This green space is set to have a playground area, a water feature, a rock wall and a gazebo. With these new apartment units and nature features for family-fun, we can hope that more people will congregate here and North Point will once again be the hub for residents of the surrounding area.

It is no secret that this is not just a recent phenomenon in suburban Atlanta, but it has been happening more recently statewide and in the United States as a whole. Chicago’s Lincoln Mall and Regency Square Mall in Richmond, VA have both closed their doors to the public, leaving behind a graveyard of stores in their wake. Moving closer to home, Georgia Square Mall in the Athens, Clarke-County area is also struggling to stay afloat. With the shut-down of the Macy’s in this mall, there is a noticeable difference in the number of shoppers here, even though it still holds Belk, Sears, and JCPenney.

With malls in the United States losing popularity at such a quick rate, it is necessary to note the advantages and disadvantages. Consumers help businesses stay afloat, as well as giving people work. However, with malls shutting down quickly, there will be a decrease of jobs available. On the other hand, malls closing may lead to a bright future with outdoor shopping centers popping up, like the Avalon. These outdoor malls can provide people with other outlets for fun other than shopping.

In light of the positives and negatives, one fact is clear: with a new culture arising, everybody will be affected. Shops, businesses, medical practices, grocery stores and even parks must be ready to see a fluctuating amount of people frequenting their grounds. Since Amazon is being used more, people may have to become more comfortable with the world of online shopping, e-commerce websites and shipping confirmation emails. With an era of malls closing, a new age is slowly making itself seen. A pertinent question remains: How will communities react to this unpredictability?

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