Minnesota: The Cradle of the Shopping Mall Industry

From the first mall in the country to the biggest, Minnesota is the shopping center of the U.S.



November 28, 2017

North America is home to over 8,000 fantastically diverse shopping centers, ranging from trendsetting Los Angeles fashion hubs, to Midwestern power malls filled with fun for the whole family, to luxe New York street retail on Fifth Avenue. While these thousands of centers are beautifully unique in size, tenant mix, attractions, and audience, they all share one fascinating foundation – innovations fostered in Kipsu’s humble hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Indeed, the “Twin Cities” of Saint Paul and Minneapolis are home to not only the first ever enclosed shopping center drawn up by pioneering architect Victor Gruen, but the world’s leading experiential shopping destination, Mall of America.

On October 8, 1956, the city of Edina, Minnesota, opened the doors of Southdale Center, the very first modern indoor and climate-controlled shopping mall. The mall was designed by Victor Gruen, an Austrian emigre hoping to build a community space where families could shop, dine, and live in a modern take on the market squares of Gruen’s home country.. Gruen’s new urban vision sought to solve major problems in American urban planning (or lack thereof) during the postwar population boom, getting people out of their cars and into beautiful indoor promenades attending to every want and need of modern living. Perhaps it was Minnesota’s brutally cold climate that made this foray into indoor shopping a hit, but Gruen’s design continued to spread far beyond this state, revolutionizing America’s economic landscape in the process.

According to Herman Guttman, the supervisor of Southdale’s construction, "People came in and looked and their mouths opened. The impact was phenomenal. There was nothing like it." When Southdale first opened, it offered two department stores and 72 smaller shops. Today, Southdale offers its shoppers 123 various stores and services.

Minnesota’s leadership in shopping innovation did not stop with the enclosed mall, however. 25 years before ‘experiential retail’ became a prerequisite for survival,  the Mall of America first greeted guests with shops, restaurants, indoor roller coasters, and other fun for the whole family.. Mall of America’s story began in 1982, when Minnesota’s sport teams, the Twins and the Vikings, left the Bloomington, MN Metropolitan Stadium for the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. Ten years later, the pioneering Ghermezian family opened the novel retail and entertainment center  on August 11, 1992 Now that the industry has caught up to Mall of America’s focus on a complete guest experience, they are innovating in ever-evolving ways, from regular concerts in the rotunda, a new local retailer marketplace, and a series of events in partnership with this year’s Super Bowl LII. Mall of America is a groundbreaker in the realm of digital engagement, being the first ever partner to utilize Kipsu’s SMS concierge services. Today, Mall of America boasts over 520 stores; generating nearly $2 billion in revenue and drawing 40 million visitors each year.

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