Since the pandemic, it appears as if shopping has become primarily digital and the experience of shopping in stores has become a thing of the past. What effects did Covid-19 have on the shopping experience, and what lies ahead for the future of shopping?
With Black Friday quickly approaching, I wanted to get a head-start on my Christmas List. So, I began thinking of gifts for my loved ones, shopping, and how I planned to go about making such purchases. I realized that my instinctive method was to surf the web and shop online. I was almost astounded by the realization that, before the start of the semester, it had been a couple of years since I had gone shopping in-person, and after a certain point I was no longer inclined to do so. I wondered how many others shared the same sentiments when it came to making purchases, so I decided to delve into the world of shopping and what it has meant for society in recent years.
As of late, less people have gone shopping in-person and have relied on the readiness of shopping online when seeking out a large majority of purchases. Consequently, for the past decade, malls and shopping centers are becoming more vacant at an alarming rate. To keep the ominous feels going, there is an abundance of abandoned malls (or, namely, ghost malls) and empty lots currently hoarding communities nationwide. The rapid decline was relatively exacerbated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, economic fallout and the swift transition from physical to virtual shopping.
Today, more than 300 malls and shopping centers are abandoned across the nation. Only around 1,000 shopping malls currently remain in the United States, and one in four are projected to close over the next couple of years. In North Carolina, malls and department stores have become vacant since the early 2000s. Jacob Biba, a Carolina native and journalist for The Guardian, refers to them as “The Malls that Time Forgot.” After returning home to The Old North State, Biba found that things were not the same as they once were. Jacob Biba began touring other towns, only to discover that more malls from his youth had become forsaken, distant memories.
Particularly, The Pennrose Mall, in the small tobacco town of Reidsville, NC, was once a popular staple for in-demand apparel and quality jewelry. Now, the mall that once comprised two department stores, Belk and JCPenney, is now a long, deserted hallway lined with empty buckets to catch the water that drips from the ceiling. In like manner, there is a similar mall located in the town of Asheville, where the former Innsbruck Mall resides. Not much remains, besides an elevator, artificial trees and a rent-to-own furniture store. Furthermore, in Statesville, there is another mall that is no longer thriving, The Signal Hill Mall. Although the mall is no longer active, there is still a fountain there with a few tossed coins left and plants that survived due to the skylights near the old JCPenney. Signal Hill is said to have been built in 1973, and Jacob Biba reports that the mall has become more of an attraction left to appreciate the aesthetics of the 1970s.
(PC: Jacob Biba/The Guardian – Pennrose Mall)
My family even mentioned the Carolina Circle Mall, recounting all of the retail nostalgia of the shopping center, which was located right here in Greensboro. Carolina Circle Mall had its grand opening on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 1976, with an ice rink known as the “Ice Chalet” as the main attraction. It is said to have been the only ice rink in Greensboro at the time, with many shows and performances held there, such as Alice in Wonderland. In addition, there was a popular movie theater known as The Circle 6, which had a number of favored restaurants including Chick-Fil-A and New York Pizza. Unfortunately, the mall officially closed in early 2002, marking a woeful day for many natives of the district.
Since the pandemic, many consumers have changed their behaviors when it comes to shopping. Instead of consistently shopping for groceries in stores, a large percentage of consumers have opted for no-contact delivery or curbside pickup. Sales related to e-commerce have skyrocketed, while other industries have been on a steady decline since 2020. In previous years, parking lots would be filled to capacity with shoppers eager to hunt for the deals of the year, but no longer. I am not sure what to expect for this year’s holiday shopping, with businesses and retailers adapting to the convenience and comfort of consumers shopping online without ever having to leave their homes, while others are attempting to enhance the shopping experience to lure customers to return to shopping in stores.