Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson

With the opening of the Super Regional Shopping Centre in Tsawwassen I kind of get the feeling that I should increase the limit on the old VISA card and prepare to plunge into the season that defines consumerism.

Actually, I love to shop (who doesn’t) but these past years I’ve been doing that, less with the VISA and more with the Debit Card so there are no nasty surprises thirty days later.  The best check (cheque) on my desires is to ensure that I avoid the not so subtle response on the debit machine that says DECLINED!

But hey, who hasn’t endured the red cheeks of embarrassment staring at this word, and the knowing eyes of the clerk asking if I have another card?

But what do you really know about the Shopping Mall phenomenon?

It’s likely the original shopping activity was conducted on the High Street, the focal point for business, shops and street stalls (if any) in town and city centres. The equivalent in the United States and some parts of Canada, as well as some Northern English towns is “Main Street”.

Facts you were just dying to know: The smallest High Street in Britain is located in a small market town of Holsworthy. The Holsworthy’s High Street is 100 yards long and contains only three shops. The UK, according to a 2009 statistical compilation has 5,410 High Streets, 3,811 Station Roads and 2,702 Main Streets. Now, your life is complete!

But when did they get the idea to bundle all the shops together? The earliest shopping centres were shopping arcades which are still trading. They include the Burlington Arcade in London which opened on March 20, 1819, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan which opened in 1877. Many smaller arcades have been demolished, replaced with large centers or “malls” accessible by car. Many were also the site of such technical advances as electric lighting and escalators, which arrived in the late 19th century.

First Mall in Canada: Depending on how you define it. The Norgate Shopping Centre was the first strip mall was opened in La Belle Province, in Saint-Laurent, Montreal, in 1949.

First enclosed Canadian shopping mall is the Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver, which opened a year later, in 1950.

In keeping with, or dare I say, driven by the love affair with automobile, malls sprung up like mushrooms across the continent. But after fifty years, many are now having financial challenges and must adapt as large anchors are reducing number of stores such as Sears, or closing outright, such as Target in Canada.

Online shopping, the digital mall, is impacting the viability of the mall for convenience, although it still has a function as a town centre of sorts. According to the Business Insider, in a 2014 article: Within 15 to 20 years, retail consultant Howard Davidowitz expects as many as half of America’s shopping malls to fail. He predicts that only upscale shopping centers with anchors like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus will survive.

Canada’s largest is the West Edmonton Mall, at 3,800,000 sqft, and ranks well in malls around the world. The West Edmonton is followed by Mississauga’s Square One at 2,200,000 and Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby at 1,795,500 sq ft. South of the Fraser Guildford Town Centre has been the Super Regional Shopping Centre. It was built in 1966 and following a massive make-over and expansion, became the third largest in BC. It is now being joined by its sister at Tsawwassen Mills.

The Worlds Largest Mall is a toss up. The New South China Mall in Dongguan, China is the largest shopping mall in the world based on gross leasable area, however for over 10 years has been mostly vacant attracting very few merchants.

The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world by total area. Along with West Edmonton Mall it is the nineteenth largest shopping mall in the world by gross leasable area. Located in the United Arab Emirates, it is part of the $20 billion Downtown complex, and includes 1,200 shops, a zoo, a hotel and a theme park. In 2011 it was the most visited building on the planet, attracting over 54 million visitors.

There you have it! When you venture to the mall in the next few months, you can confidently amaze and dazzle your fellow diners in the food court with your understanding of the world’s greatest form of merchandising. Depending on your point of sale…. I mean, point of view.

So go forth and interact with all your might!