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9 Types of Malls (With Examples in the US)

There are various definitions and originating theories for shopping centers or shopping malls. However, the commonly accepted shopping mall description is a large indoor or outdoor shopping center with anchor department stores.

In addition, the mall stores or shops are typically arranged in a promenade with pedestrian accessibility via walkways. 

All shopping malls have two common denominators – convenience and grouping of popular stores in one location. Furthermore, with the population growth and the shift to urbanization, shops and store varieties expanded almost out of control.

In addition, the modern citizen prefers convenient choices, and shopping malls are vital in providing and fulfilling precisely that need.

A woman carrying colorful shopping paper bags walking inside a mall

9 Types of Shopping Malls in the US

Size is the main differentiating factor dividing shopping malls into various categories. In addition, business practices revolve around supply and demand, and similarly, it applies precisely to the variation of shopping mall types.

The famous shopping malls in all U.S. cities are good examples of convenience and shop variety ranging from boutique shops and restaurants to large and affordable department stores. 

Although the primary focus of all Malls is shopping, it also caters to entertainment and leisure.

Who still remembers the window-shopping strolls along the streets of the downtown shopping districts of yesteryears? Nevertheless, shopping malls are a servant of their community and forever adapting and adopting to local demands and international standards.

1. The Super-Regional Mall Type

A very large mall

The Super Malls fall within the General-Purpose Shopping Center category classification and are the largest of the mall types. Also known as Mega malls, they are typically shopping malls with more than 800,000 sq ft rental shop areas and three or more anchor stores. In addition, it should be the only large or similar shopping center in a 30-mile radius. 

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Super Regional Malls are similar to a regular Regional Mall but have an enormous shop tenant variety. Usually, super malls have more than 100 stores. Examples of mega shopping malls are the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and the two-mall combination of the Plaza and the Court at King of Prussia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

On average, Super Regional Malls are about double the size of a Regional Mall and have multiple anchor tenants and restaurants. In addition, they provide entertainment areas and optionally have adjacent housing options within the mall. However, because of their luxury store tenants and ultra-modern features, their building costs are similarly more expensive than average. 

Lastly, Super Regional Malls usually are located in larger populated areas to justify their footprint and customer attendance. In addition, it is not common for these mega malls to consist of multiple levels of shopping and entertainment fun. The best example of a Mega Mall is the King of Prussia, the largest mall in the U.S. Another example is The Mall Of America which is a wonderful family favorite.

2. The Regional Mall Type

Compared to the Super Regional Malls, they are typically half the available size and therefore house fewer tenants and provide fewer shopping varieties. Regional Malls usually cater to general merchandise and fashion stores and house about 40 to 80 stores with various small and significant merchants. In addition, they are an indoor center with a shared pedestrian walkway with inward-facing stores. 

These regional malls have a leasable area of about 400,000 to 800,000 square feet, and the customer parking areas surround the mall. Usually, it will be the largest shopping center within a 10 to 15-mile radius. In addition, they should have a minimum of two large anchor tenants that takes the responsibility of attracting most of the mall’s customers but also hosts a large variety of merchandise stores.

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The main reason for the large service area is to justify the leasing options for their high-end tenants and allow for their profitability. In addition, it is possible to find this mall type in vacation and tourist-rich areas; therefore, there will be restaurants and similar leisure attractions. 

Although many regional malls are on one level, they may have two stories by design. However, newer regional mall designs use an open-air middle area rather than a fully enclosed roof. A perfect example of a larger Regional Mall is The Capital City Mall in Camp Hill, close to Harrisburg on Route 15, Pennsylvania.

3. The Community Center Mall Type

A community shopping center is a larger version of a neighborhood shopping center or a large strip mall. They typically have two anchors, an L or a U-shape mall design, and the shops are in line. Therefore, a large community center hosts an enormous variety of apparel and goods compared to a slightly smaller neighborhood center. 

Finding home improvement, toys, electronics, or sports retailers in the Community Center Malls is not uncommon. In addition, depending on their anchor tenants, some community malls are considered discount or off-price malls. However, they host at least 15 to 40 shops providing a wide range of department and retail stores and the largest mall in a 6-mile radius.

The Community Center Mall caters to general merchandise and typically hosts a discount store, a supermarket, a drugstore, home improvement, and large specialty stores. An example of the larger Community Center Mall is The Dakota Square Mall in Minot, North Dakota.

4. The Neighbourhood Center Mall Type

A Neighbourhood Center Mall is a smaller version of the Community Shopping Mall and slightly larger than a Strip Mall. They usually have at least one anchor and offer general merchandise or convenience through various tenant shops. These malls are similar in design to the Community Malls and host at least 5 to 15 stores, including a supermarket and optionally a discount and drug store. 

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Typically, these malls have less than 400,000 square feet of leasable tenant areas and will be the only or largest shopping center in a 3-mile radius. The Neighbourhood mall’s primary function is to provide the convenience and everyday needs of consumers in the neighborhood. Typically, most of these malls will have a supermarket anchor. 

The design of older neighborhood malls has each store’s entrance on the outside, but some newer designs group the stores in a circle for an open-air style mall. The Fort Evans Plaza is an excellent example of the Neighbourhood Center Mall, with various versatile shops servicing the larger neighborhood area.

5. The Strip Or Mini Mall Type

A Strip mall, shopping plaza, or mini-mall is an open-area shopping center where the stores are in a row, a sidewalk in front, and the shop entrances are from the outside. In addition, the large open parking bays are in front of the shop row. Therefore, a strip mall does not have enclosed pathways between stores. Some designs deviate from the straight line and could have an “L” or “U” shape.

The Mini Malls are amongst the smaller shopping centers, yet their tenants provide a good mix of goods and services to the immediate area around the mall. They are also typically surrounded by neighborhood housing and can have pedestrian connections for easy access. Depending on the service area, they come in two sizes: as small as three stores or as large as ten or more stores.

Strip malls are ubiquitous in most U.S. residential areas and are often at main street intersections. Typically, their target market is the immediate small surrounding areas. They are usually service orientated with a grocery store as an anchor. Optionally, they will have a small restaurant or other community-related stores. The larger Mini Malls may have gas stations or other businesses as tenants. 

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Strip malls are primary outdoor malls with an average size of 7,000 and 20,000 square feet. In addition, the smaller Mini Malls may not have an anchor or a large store tenant, yet still, cater to the residential area needs via smaller mini stores. Sometimes, these malls have smaller buildings wrapped around the parking for aesthetic reasons.

An example of a Strip or Mini Mall is The Bellewood Commons mall in Leesburg, Virginia. However, the much smaller mall still boasts a variety of everyday conveniences for the immediate surrounding areas.

6. The Power Center Mall Type

An aireal view of a very large mall and the parking area.

The Power Center Mall is a typical large Strip Mall. They have large anchor stores such as Wal-Mart, or other grocery stores, furniture outlets, and discount clothing stores. The Power Center Malls are called Specialized-Purpose Centers because they cater to larger residential areas. It is common to find off-price stores and wholesale clubs dominating the tenant base with only a few small tenants. 

Their catchment area is about 5-10 miles, and each city will only have one or two Power Center Malls compared to more grocery store-anchored Strip Malls. A Power Mall can have 6 to 24 larger stores. Older strip malls tend to have a plain architecture with the stores arranged in a straight row. Newer strip mall designs have the modern architecture to blend in with neighborhoods. 

In addition, apart from the one or more large anchors, they will host various other shops that offer a selection of merchandise ranges at bargain prices. Lastly, the Power Malls may also have freestanding anchors with limited smaller franchised tenants. Because the anchor stores dominate the Power Malls, you will find a limited number of smaller tenants. 

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The Belknap Marketplace shopping center is an example of the versatility of a Power Center Mall type hosting a variety of shops catering to the neighborhood’s needs.

7. The Lifestyle Mall Type

The Lifestyle Mall types fall within the specialty mall category and typically consist of dining and entertainment in an outdoor design. Their catchment area can be about 8 to 12 miles, and they are the newer kids on the mall blocks. To keep to the versatility concept, they may include luxury housing apartments as part of the structural design. 

In addition, their tenants are often high-end retail stores and restaurants with entertainment and dining. They provide an indoor shopping experience and vary in size depending on their customer base. Sometimes their housing areas will be above the shopping structures, with the restaurant and dining areas to one side. Lastly, Lifestyle Malls can host 20 or more stores with various restaurants.

The Streets Of Brentwood is an excellent example of a lifestyle shopping experience with dining and entertainment. Click here to get more information on The Streets Of Brentwood at Sand Creek Rd, Brentwood, CA. Another example is the City Center Bishop Ranch, where modern design meets gardens, trails, lakes, and super restaurants.

8. The Outlet Mall Type

Tejon Outlet shopping center in Tejon Ranch CA

The Outlet Malls came into existence because many factory stores and retailers sold branded merchandise at discount prices. They service an area of approximately 25 to 75 miles. The original outlet store concept dates back to the early 1930s when manufacturers and retailers sold unwanted stock items at bargain prices. 

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These malls are typically on the outskirts of a town and consist of a large group of shops selling clothes and various other goods at much lower and reduced prices. Lately, many outlet stores sell lower-quality products, specifically manufactured for the outlet market. As a result, many believe Outlet Malls have become outdated and unnecessary as all stores and shops have bargain sections.

However, the last few years saw many Outlet Malls exist all over the U.S. The two main customer-drawing factors are brand names and lower prices even though we know the products may be lower outlet store quality. However, human nature wins, and people enjoy the convenience and bargain choices under the proverbial one roof. 

In addition, one reason why Outlet Malls are usually located away from populated areas is that rent is cheaper and allows store profitability. Typically, the mall has a similar design to a traditional mall, which can be an open-air or a large strip mall. Also, these malls do not have anchor stores but host brand or franchise stores amongst other smaller bargain shops.

An excellent example of an Outlet Mall is The Ashville Outlets off Interstate 26 on Brevard Road in Asheville, North Carolina.

9. The Theme or Festival Mall Type

The Theme or Festival Leisure Malls are often found in urban areas and can also be embedded in or around older or historic buildings. Their target market is tourists and local customers seeking leisure, entertainment, and specific niche merchandise. The themes vary between entertainment as a unifying theme or an antique theme catering to vintage and antique goods. 

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Many newer smaller mall designs tend to move to an open-air style, and the Festival Mall type has followed suit. Typically, the mall will identify a theme, and the individual shops will enhance it in their design and carry it within their product and merchandise. You may find that restaurants or other entertainment facilities play the anchor role in these malls.

Lastly, the fashion or specialty malls fall within the Theme or Lifestyle Mall type. They may consist of upmarket apparel shops, boutiques, and craft shops contributing to the tourist attractions. Therefore, some products may be unique, high quality, and expensive. 

These malls are different in design and usually place a lot of emphasis on decor and landscaping. Typically, they will cater to an area of about 5 to 25 miles. An example of a colossal Theme or Festival Mall is The Pier Park in Panama City Beach, FL. This coastal-themed mall provides a huge open-air theme and festival shopping and entertainment.

Conclusion

Malls are trendy in the U.S. and worldwide as they cater to convenience and variety. In addition, mall types relate to the area, population, and product offerings.

Therefore, urbanization was the most significant driving factor in consolidating shops and larger stores within a convenient location.

Also, modern designs influence traditional mall architectures, relating to various layouts.