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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: The Burlington Arcade & Shopping Centers


On March 20, 1819, the Burlington Arcade opened its doors to the public. It was one of the first covered shopping arcades in London, and it quickly became known as an upmarket shopping destination for luxury goods. Before the advent of shopping centers like the Burlington Arcade, shopping was a much different experience.

Prior to the 19th century, shopping was largely done in open-air markets, where vendors sold their wares from stalls or carts. Shoppers had to navigate crowded and often chaotic streets to find what they were looking for, and there was little protection from the weather. As the Industrial Revolution took hold, more goods were produced, and people had more money to spend. Shopping became more of a leisure activity, and entrepreneurs began looking for ways to make the shopping experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

The Burlington Arcade was one of the first attempts to create a more controlled and sophisticated shopping experience. The arcade was a long covered passageway with shops on either side, and it was designed to keep shoppers out of the elements. The arcade quickly became a popular destination for wealthy shoppers, who appreciated the elegance and exclusivity of the shopping experience.

The success of the Burlington Arcade sparked a wave of similar developments across Europe and the United States. Shopping arcades and centers became popular in the mid-19th century, as entrepreneurs saw the potential for creating more comfortable and efficient shopping experiences. One of the more famous examples of this trend is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, which opened in 1867 and is considered one of the world's first modern shopping malls.

As shopping centers evolved, they became more elaborate and diverse. Many incorporated entertainment and dining options, as well as department stores and specialty shops. In the United States, the first modern enclosed shopping mall was the Southdale Center, which opened in 1956 in Edina, Minnesota. The Southdale Center featured a central atrium, air conditioning, and a range of shops and restaurants, and it quickly became a popular destination for shoppers.

With the introduction of anchor stores, large department stores acted as the main draws for shopping centers. These stores, such as Macy's and Sears, provided a steady stream of traffic to the mall and helped to establish it as a shopping destination. The first mall food court was opened in 1983 in the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey. The introduction of food courts also helped to draw in shoppers, offering a variety of dining options in a convenient location.

In the 1990s, the concept of the "lifestyle center" emerged. These centers combined the traditional shopping experience with elements of outdoor shopping districts, incorporating pedestrian walkways, landscaped gardens, and other features to create a more pleasant and engaging shopping environment. This approach proved popular, and many new shopping centers were built using this design.

More recently, shopping centers have continued to evolve with the rise of e-commerce and online shopping. Many modern shopping centers incorporate technology and digital experiences, while others focus on sustainability and community engagement. The largest shopping center in the world is the Dubai Mall. At over 12 million square feet (equivalent in size to more than 50 soccer fields), it is the largest shopping mall in the world based on total area but about the same size as the West Edmonton Mall if based on leasable space.

Today, shopping centers and malls remain an important part of the retail landscape. They continue to evolve and adapt to changing consumer preferences and technological advances, while also honoring the legacy of early shopping centers like the Burlington Arcade.

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