shopping centre, shopping arcade or shopping mall as it is popularly known by these synonyms in various parts of the world is a building or a set of buildings that contain many stores. This could mean a large number of shops that are accessible to pedestrians and is connected to the main street through non vehicular traffic bearing roads. It refers to a large shopping area usually comprised of a single building which contains multiple shops, usually "anchored" by one or more department stores surrounded by a parking lot.
Usually such shopping centers are enclosed, sometimes they may be open air, but they are interconnected so that people can walk through them as they visit the many stores that they contain. These shopping centers are generally multi level and contain retail stores selling clothes, home ware, books, accessories , electronic and household appliances and any other products. Apart from the stores, shopping centers contain office spaces, eateries, entertainment and amusement services, and utility service such as bank counters, ATM's, information kiosks, toilets, currency exchanges etc. shopping centers also have multiple food stations and dining options for the convenience of the shoppers.
The purpose of shopping centers is to give the shopper a one stop shop experience where each member of the family is catered to because they house multiple shopping, eating and entertainment options. For the retailer / seller it is the advantage of attracting a customer collectively since the shopping centers are multi vendor.
Usually these shopping centers are within the town and inserted into the older shopping districts, surrounded by shops in the open air streets around it. In the mid twentieth Century with the rise of industries outside big cities, the idea of suburban shopping centers began. Infact now in places like the UK, Out-of-town shopping developments are now focused on retail parks, which consist of groups of warehouse style shops with individual entrances from outdoors.
Shopping centers are not a recent phenomenon and they can be traced back to the grand bazaars of central Asia and Europe which can be traced back to the 15h Century. Infact the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul built in the 15th century is one of the largest and covers over 58 streets and more than 4000 shops. In England, the Oxford Covered Market in Oxford, England that was opened in 1774 is still one of the most prolific markets today.
Shopping centers all around the world, big or small, new or old are built around a pattern that needs to satisfy multiple requirements of both the shopper and the store owners. They generally contain a good mix of one or two large departmental stores. This was necessary for the financial stability of the center and to attract retail buyers that would then result in traffic for the smaller stores in the shopping Center.
There are usually many smaller stores around these big stores that stock a wide range of ware from clothes, accessories, household needs, home furnishings, etc. apart from stores, the shopping centers are home to convenience facilities for the shoppers. These include toilets for adults, children, families and special needs. Public telephones such as coin and card telephones for public use, Seating that may be provided within the shopping Center for people to relax, food courts and restaurants serving multi cuisine food. Lifts that are conveniently located to assist movement between the levels. Car parking for people to park their vehicles.
With all this convenience provided to the shopper at a single point, shopping Centers are soon replacing traditional street shopping because of the convenience they offer. This has led to displacement of traditional market places to give way to the new shopping centers. This has been the criticism that shopping centers have faced. Notwithstanding all this, there is simply no denying that chopping centers today have shown the shopper a more convenient way to shop. It not only provides a huge range of products available to the shopper, but provides entertainment and food options for the entire family and takes care of all their shopping needs.