¶ … Architecture of Consumption
Most of us have probably never thought a great deal about the ways in which the typical shopping mall, such as the Galleria, is laid out. We all know that there are anchor stores that are at the psychological (although not geometric) "corners" of the mall, and that in between these anchors are smaller, more specialized stores, most of them selling clothes, make-up and jewelry, with the second most important category of merchandise being items that are sold for the purpose of entertainment, including books and CDs and other forms of recorded music. The third most important single category of stores/merchandise at a typical mall (and the Galleria is in no important way substantially atypical in terms of the ways in which architecture is designed to lead to an increased degree of both the desire to consume and the actual process of consumption itself) is that of the restaurant. These paper looks at the importance of mall architecture vis-a-vis the anchor stores, the effect that these anchor stores have on other stores, and several of the ways in which the physical design of malls tends to manipulate the behavior of shoppers in those malls.
The effect of anchor stores (such as Macys, Robinson-May, Bullocks, Dillards, etc.) is to provide an impression to the consumer that there is an unending and vast supply of merchandise. Although the effect of being confronted with so much merchandise should make one feel impoverished (since one can only afford the smallest possible percentage of it, even if one wanted a great deal of it), the effect is in fact the opposite. One is given the impression of great bounty. The anchor store is a cornucopia of wealth. It exists (or rather it seems to exist) to provide everything that you might ever want in your entire life. There are endless choices of colors and sizes and accessories. The anchor store provides the...
It seems to offer every product you need to create whatever identity it is that you might choose to don for that day.
The mall's anchor store, because of the wide variety of products that are for sale within it, seems to offer to the consumer the possibility of recreation. The establishment of a new identity is one of the great American myths. We like to believe that we can grow up to be whatever we want to be in this country -- and we like also to think that if the first pathway we start down in life isn't proving to be taking us where it is that we want to go then we can simply change directions, put on a new suit and a different set of earrings, and recreate ourselves. The variety of different types of products as well as the variety within each type helps to maintain this illusion that it is possible to manipulate fate to our own ends as well as long as we are wearing a shirt in the latest color.
The effect of this particular kind of bounty has consequences for the non-anchor stores in a mall. Anchor stores, even during their sales, tend to have higher prices than do the smaller stores. This is especially true for upscale anchors like Macys, where the price differential between an item and a similar item (for example, a pair of stockings or a purse) at a smaller mall store can be two or three times. The differential between an anchor like Penneys or Sears (one of the more blue-color and consequently often struggle department stores) and the smaller stores is less great, but these less expensive anchor stores are also more inclined to carry more practical merchandise and not to compete with the smaller stores for the trendier products.
The reason for this price differential is that the offering of lower prices is the major competitive advantage that smaller stores have to offer. Anchor stores dazzle shoppers by the variety of merchandise; smaller stores cannot compete with anchors in terms of amount or variety of larger stores and so they must find some other way in which to compete, which tends to be price. This can be seen as an advantage for the smaller stores, that are thus able to sell more items at…
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