We explain what a shopping center is, its characteristics and what types exist. In addition, we tell you how its origin was and what its function is.

People walk through a shopping center.
Large numbers of customers are concentrated in shopping centers.

What is a shopping center?

A shopping center or shopping center, also called mall either shopping (both Anglicized terms coming from shopping mall), It is a generally large type of construction, intended exclusively to house commercial premises, that is, to the massive purchase and sale of goods and services. Large numbers of customers are concentrated inside and different types of consumption are encouraged: leisure and entertainment, gastronomy, clothing, electronic goods, among many others.

Shopping centers can be understood as clusters of stores and business offices, each of which rents space in the building, generally managed by private hands. They are buildings typical of the consumer society and the large cities of the 20th century.inside which consumers can meet in a similar way as they do in public spaces, that is, to walk, share with third parties or contemplate store windows, with or without the explicit purpose of buying.

The great virtue of shopping centers for sellers and merchants lies in the so-called agglomeration economy, that is, the fact that all the stores are concentrated in the same environment, one next to the other, in such a way that a consumer can carry out different types of purchases and contracts without having to go back to the street. Thus, the chances that consumption will materialize are much higher.

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Origin of shopping centers

Inside a shopping center there is a pond with a reproduction of an old ship.
The West Edmonton Mall is home to more than 800 shops, restaurants, a zoo and more.

The malls They emerged in the 20th century as an adaptation of the traditional market to mass society emerged thanks to the modern industrial economy. Thus, the initial idea was to provide this type of establishments with their own space to park vehicles, so that access would be simpler and more favorable for consumers, who enter a space clearly differentiated from the street.

The first shopping center in history was built in Kansas City, United States, in 1922.. It was called Country Club Plaza and was built by the JC Nichols Company. Shortly after, In 1956, the first enclosed shopping center was built in the city of Minneapolis.that is, clearly distinguished from the public environment, which set an important precedent in the construction of these buildings.

However, the big ones “megamalls” emerged from the 1980s, both in the United States and in other Western countries. These were shopping centers that constituted in themselves a small commercial city, with large parking spaces and hundreds of different stores spread over several stories high.

One of these first commercial projects was the West Edmonton Mall, opened in 1981 in Alberta, Canada, and which housed more than 800 stores, as well as restaurants, amusement parks, a church, a mini-golf course, a zoo and an artificial lake. 438 feet long.

Characteristics of a shopping center

Although shopping centers can be very different from each other, broadly speaking they are characterized by:

  • They are usually large buildings.or even interconnected sets of buildings, intended almost exclusively for commerce and financial transactions.
  • They usually house a large number of different shops and officesas well as recreation and leisure spaces for the general public.
  • They usually have a parking lot. and sometimes with its own connection to public transportation (like the subway, for example).
  • They are important concentration points for people and which large sums of money are mobilized daily and large amounts of energy resources are also consumed.
  • They usually have their own spatial and architectural identitytheir own design and a certain sense of aesthetics that usually imitates public space: hence the common names they use, such as “square”, “district”, “city” and the like.
  • They operate according to a set schedulewhich usually favors the afternoon and evening.
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Types of shopping centers

A supermarket is located in a shopping center.
The protagonists of community centers are usually supermarkets, cinemas and pharmacies.

There are different types of shopping centers, depending on their proportions and design:

  • strip mall or mini shopping center. Small buildings, they focus more than anything on the offer of services and office premises, and are generally open-air or in modest, non-air-conditioned spaces with little architectural complexity.
  • fashion mall or fashion center. Large buildings, they house a multitude of stores dedicated to retail sales, generally clothing and personal items. They tend to be closed, air-conditioned, multi-story environments, accompanied by food fairs and/or cinemas.
  • Community center or community center. Small and inconspicuous buildings, focused on the sale of daily consumption items and everyday services, since they are designed to be visited at least once a week. Its main protagonists are usually supermarkets, cinemas and pharmacies.
  • Town Center or town center. Medium-sized buildings, between one and two floors, composed of different businesses dedicated to providing daily services, such as dry cleaners, haberdasheries, restaurants or banks, located in an orderly manner outdoors or between walls.
  • e-Marketplaces or online shopping centers. These are the virtual equivalent of shopping centers, that is, online platforms in which it is possible to consume products and services from different sources, and complete commercial operations from the computer or telephone.

Purposes of a shopping center

Shopping centers aim facilitate consumption by concentrating supply and demand in the same place, so that visiting the shopping center is more than just going to the store. For this reason, shopping centers offer different consumption options and They try to extend customers’ stay as much as possible, to maximize the opportunity to make sales..

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On the other hand, shopping centers can serve as an alternative to public places in cities where the street is very dangerous, allowing people to meet, walk and share in an environment perceived as safer.

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  • “Shopping center” on Wikipedia.
  • “What is a shopping center and how does it work?” at
  • “Shopping center” in the Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Doubts of the Royal Spanish Academy.
  • “Shopping center (marketplace)” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.