October 11, 2017 - mh9868a

Research Puzzle- “Get in loser, we’re going shopping”: How Shopping Complexes Affect the Socio-Economics of a Town

In today’s age, many people avoid the hassle of going to stores by doing most of their shopping online. However, despite the surge in online shopping, retail and outlet malls continue to be popular local spots for groups of people to socialize. While many people enjoy going shopping with their friends, often people do not think about the sociological and financial effects a shopping complex has on a town. Therefore, I am interested in researching the socio-economic effects shopping complexes have on towns in which they are located. Understanding the financial and social aspects of a shopping complex is important because it can help developers and politicians around the country decide if building a new complex is the right decision for their town, city, or state. More specifically, I want to research the socio-economic effects of shopping complexes because I want to find out how those complexes affects the communities in which they are located in order to help my reader determine if the new Tuscan Village complex is right for the town of Salem, NH.

First, shopping malls hold great importance to the social structure of society. For example, many young people go to the mall for a safe place to be with their friends. In his book, “Lifestyle Shopping: The Subject of Consumption,” Rob Shields argues that the roll of malls is changing in a post-modernist world. Furthermore, he argues that in a postmodern world malls directly tie social norms and culture with economic interests. For example, Shields explains that a new mall was opened in downtown London because of the changing consumerist culture in that area. Also, he explains how the culture in shopping areas around cities is defined by the areas of the cities the shopping centers are located. Basically, Shields’ book outlines the connection between malls and local culture.

This book should be useful for my research because I am exploring how malls are connected to social culture. Shields’ book will supply general background of how malls influence culture and how culture can influence a mall. I use the information I find in his book to expand my search for social culture and shopping areas. I could use this information to narrow my search to just the social culture of teenagers in shopping complexes. Either way, Shields’ book is a great start to my social research.

Another aspect of shopping complexes I am researching is the effects the complexes can have on the towns in which they are built. In John Mullin’s essay, “When the Mall Comes to a Small Town: How to Shape Development with Carrots and Sticks,” he argues that there is a lot of preparation that goes into building a shopping mall in a small town. Moreover, he argues that some towns can not meet the basic criteria for building a mall in their areas. According to Mullin, “malls tend to have a positive fiscal impact for the host community.” Therefore, usually malls are economically beneficial to their communities. For example, malls help the local economy by producing hundreds of jobs for teens, adults, and seniors. This increase in jobs will help these workers put their hard earned money back into the local economy. Also, Mullin explains that malls affect infrastructure in surrounding areas and could negatively impact traffic, environment, and mom-and-pop stores. Overall, Mullin suggests through financial assessments before town officials decide to build a new mall.

Mullin’s article will be beneficial to my research because it outlines the different economic impacts a malls has on communities. This article provides a great base for my research on the economic influence shopping complexes have on a town. The information in Mullin’s article can help me find specific parts of a town economy I could possibly look into. The specific conversation about infrastructure changes in towns is an interesting idea that I want to look into further. In general, Mullin’s article will be useful for finding to avenues of information to research.

While the socio-economic effects of malls on American towns are very interesting, it is also important to understand the historical aspects of a shopping complex. Understanding why shopping centers are so popular in America to begin with is valuable when thinking about the effects that history has on the current culture surrounding malls. In her article, “A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America,” Lizabeth Cohan analyzes changes in consumer behavior in America after World War II. She writes that the end of the war brought an increase in interest for larger goods such as homes and cars. This drastic change in consumer culture greatly influenced shopping habits for future generations. Cohen explains that, example, in this period after World War II even the working class was finally able to buy houses in neighborhoods. Of course, when they bought houses, they had to also buy cars for transportation. Overall, Cohen’s essay about consumerism in postwar America gave an interesting background into what influenced today’s consumer culture.

Lizabeth Cohen’s essay on postwar America helps me research the how and why of today’s consumer culture. Understanding the consumer attitudes of the past can help me interpret why consumers today act the way they do. History is a very important part of any research because it provides context for the issue being researched. Knowing the context of malls in America will help me better analyze the socio-economic effects malls have on communities. Also, this article is a gateway to researching the rise of malls in America and how they became such a popular social staple. Finding that information will really help my analysis be as accurate and detailed as possible. Basically, this source will help my understanding the history of malls and the context of the connection between today’s social and consumerist society.

For my essay, I am interested in exploring the socio-economic effects a shopping complex has on the community in which it is built. Understanding the complex relationship between shopping centers and their towns can help developers and local politicians decide if building a mall is truly right for their community. Therefore, in my literature review I would like to go deeper into my research on the history of malls in North America and how North American malls affect the financial makeup of a town including the idea of changes in infrastructure, increased employment opportunities, and potential changes to local taxes. Furthermore, I will investigate how and why malls are such a staple part of particularly teenage social behavior. Basically, I want to ask, how do shopping complexes socio-economically affect the towns in which they are located? Finally, I will take the answer to that question and apply it to the Tuscan Village complex being built in Salem, NH.


Cohen, Lizabeth. “A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America.” Journal of Consumer Research, June 2004.

Fey, Tina. Mean Girls. DVD. Directed by Mark Waters. Toronto: Paramount Pictures, 2004.

Mullin, John. “When A Mall Comes to a Small Town: How to Shape Development with Carrots and Sticks.” University of Massachusetts, 1992. http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=larp_faculty_pubs.

Shields, Rob. Lifestyle Shopping: The Subject of Consumption. Routledge, 2003.


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