Monday, 10 December 2018
The Dressing Well Blog
Mary Lou Andre

Three Cheers for the Mall! (& 5 Reasons Why They Are Still Relevant)

By Mary Lou Andre

This time of year, America seems to have a love/hate relationship with malls. Some have fond memories of going to these traditional retail centers with loved ones to do most of their holiday shopping only a decade or so ago, and still rely on them as a major source of their current holiday shopping whether driven by nostalgia or not. Others scoff at the idea of going anywhere outside their home (never mind the mall which they never fully embraced in the first place) to buy gifts now that they can shop in their pj’s 24/7 while having things arrive at their doorstep in record time.

Yet with their evolution into more consumer-friendly lifestyle destinations, I believe today’s indoor and outdoor malls may be underestimated by some who have not visited in a while. Plain and simply, you can get a lot done at the mall if you plan your visit well.

In the spirit of the season, here are 5 reasons I personally still head to the mall even when I'm not working (or holiday shopping!):

#1 The Thrill of the Hunt (& Conscious Consumerism!)
I realize many people enjoy shopping as much as a trip to the dentist. After all, we have built our business serving these folks well. However, for me (and for many of our clients) the thrill of the hunt is inspiring. I often find bargains at the mall that you'd never find online and come up with great gift ideas just by looking around well-merchandised stores. Visual merchandising departments are brilliant at pulling together complete outfits (as well as rooms, table tops and also gift baskets this time of year) and presenting them in a way that is easy to replicate. If you’ve ever shopped with me, you know I rob the mannequins blind, especially the accessories! Before checking out, I often stock up on essentials such as hosiery, undergarments, make-up and the like -- a very efficient use of time while cutting down on my carbon footprint. All those shipping boxes (and tissue paper and plastic) that arrive after a big online shop make me question the pros and cons of having all things shipped. Like a grocery store trip, I also do my best to bring my own shopping tote. A small dose of conscious consumerism is often all it takes to make subtle yet significant changes that are good for us all.

#2 Fit Matters
I don't know about you, but it only takes a few online purchases that don't fit to send me back to the pre-internet days of trying things on before I hand over my credit card. These days, I find a combination of internet and brick and mortar shopping the only way to nail my personal dress code. While I have gotten into the habit of contacting merchants I never use and requesting that I be taken off their mailing lists, I must admit I am somewhat of a catalog junkie with the brands and department stores I love. I use them along with online research before I head out to shop for myself or others. With mainstream department stores shrinking their footprint and ordering less and less stock, they are using technology more efficiently to train associates to get you the sizes you need after you try on the brands you like. Most department stores have also made it easy for you to order the size you think will work online and then pick it up at a store close to where you live or work so you can try it on before taking it home. If you end up needing another size, they will order it for you. Returns are also being made easier at these pick-up kiosks, allowing you to quickly (and less shamefully!) return items purchased from the web and anywhere in the store too – hooray!

#3 One-Stop Shopping (& Entertainment!)
If you are organized, your trek to the mall may be the only shopping you need to do. Added bonus: you can enjoy a meal out, catch a movie or even go bowling! Both malls that I frequent now have grocery stores as anchors along with complete pharmacies. I often get my groceries after I score a pair of shoes or get my nails done. Alterations and shoe repair can often be done at the mall too. Timed well, you can sometimes have a simple hem done while you do your other shopping. With Apple and Microsoft taking up more and more real estate as other tenants move out, you can get technology issues resolved while getting caught up on the latest and greatest tips to make your life easier. You can also sign up for classes at these stores. If a lesson in customer service is what you are after, walk into any of these tech stores -- I find them to be amazing in this department.

#4 You Can Shop Local & Make a Difference
As much as I rely on the mall for myself and our clients, I am a big fan of shopping locally whenever it makes sense and consciously purchase a high percentage of gifts, clothing and accessories in my town center and at small chic and artesian shops wherever I find them. To my delight, mom and pop stores are literally “popping” up at the mall with greater frequency, giving them exposure that they could have only dreamed about a few years ago. Handmade soaps, candies, wovens and jewelry are a few of the items made by local artists that are now available at the mall. More and more malls are inviting local charities in this time of year to wrap gifts in exchange for a donation, furthering their commitment to the communities they serve. While they don’t need the exposure of the mom and pops, even Boston-based tech retailer Wayside has “user experience” pop-ups at our malls. I love that I can finally touch and feel this iconic brand offline – that’s certainly another example of localization!

#5 Winter Exercise
Finally, after a long day at my desk, I crave an outing that gets me moving. In the winter months, I throw on my sneakers and head to the mall a few times a month. I park at one end with the goal of walking the whole building before I leave. I’m sure you can find a yoga or Pilates studio at some malls, but my brand of mall exercise does not cost a nickel. Yes, I'm doing some research while I am there (maybe a few returns too!) but my prime motivation is to exercise, get out of my head and to be out with other humans during the long New England winters. Extra tip: many malls allow you to bring well-behaved dogs along to walk the mall too!

Editor's note: Whether you love the mall or have not been in years, we'd love to take you! Our expert stylists can provide a customized experience just for you. You share your brand preferences, budget and time tolerance and we take care of the rest. We offer gift certificates for all our services too, including a pre-shop closet cleanse. Contact us if you'd like more information. We welcome the opportunity to get your wardrobe in top shape as we head into the New Year. Please also tell us why you love or loathe the mall in the comments section below. Let’s start a lively conversation!

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About the Author

Mary Lou Andre

Mary Lou Andre is a nationally recognized wardrobe, dress code and corporate image consultant, speaker and author. She is founder and president of Organization By Design, Inc., a Needham, Massachusetts-based wardrobe management, fashion and image consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations understand the power of being appropriately dressed in a variety of situations.

Learn more about Mary Lou » 

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Lori Safford 2018-12-11 17:29

Thanks for the insightful article Mary Lou. I agree with all of your points. The days where I am hitting over 15,000 steps are usually the days I make a trip to the Mall. Merry Christmas!

Mary Lou Andre 2018-12-11 19:32

Happy holidays to you too, Lori! Glad you liked the tips. Just getting a parking space sometimes is a workout. Carrying bags doesn't hurt either. Hope to see you soon.

Dianne Webster 2018-12-11 21:15

Hi Mary Lou, I appreciate these tips, and shopping with Sarah is always a pleasure. But I am often disappointed in the “dressing room experience.” Poor lighting, lack of racks for hanging items, and overly assertive sales personnel keep me away. I’m surprised that retailers haven’t addressed this important customer need. It is one of the reasons I avoid shopping at the mall unless I have assistance from a consultant who effectively manages my shopping experience.

Mary Lou Andre 2018-12-12 07:21

All good (and unfortunately valid) points. It's our hope that as brick and mortar stores evolve to stay competitive in the internet age they will look at store upkeep and sales training with a fresh lens too. Sarah is a pro and enjoys her time with you as well. We are super proud of our strong record of attracting and keeping wonderful clients like you!

Pat 2018-12-12 14:27

Merry Christmas, Mary Lou!
I always love it when you share advice and your incredible styling wisdom so generously....I agree with you, internet purchases have a place and purpose in our shopping experiences, however many items have to be returned due to sizing, color, fit, quality, etc. Yes, if I want a particular color, I do go home empty handed more often than not, but I too plan to spend more time at the mall and use the internet as a tool for determining which stores are currently featuring items on my list to purchase.

Thank you for your loving support for women everywhere,
a faithful fan,

Mary Lou Andre 2018-12-12 16:25

Thanks Pat. Knowing we have loyal readers like you keeps us blogging and sharing. I often hit the mall with specific items I am trying to color match. I find it is the best practice to nailing it just right.

Merry Christmas to you too. We look forward to more of your awesome insights in 2019!


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