Answer to Map #75

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Answer: This week’s map was a proportional symbol map depicting the one hundred largest shopping malls in the world in terms of gross leasable area.

The largest red dot on this map represents the only shopping mall that has more than 600,000 square meters of leasable area: the South China Mall in Dongguan, China. That mall, which opened in 2005, had some lavish touches: canals with Venetian-style gondolas, an indoor roller coaster, and a replica of the Arc de Triomphe. But for the first ten years of its existence, it was almost entirely empty. Retailers didn’t want to pay to lease space in the mall, which was too big for the local demand, and for a long time it was labeled a “dead mall.” In the last several years, following an expensive overhaul, business has started to pick up, at least a little bit.

The next largest dots, the orange ones, indicate the two malls with more than 500,000 square meters of leasable area. Both of these malls are in China. The yellow dots are for malls with more than 400,000 square meters of leasable area. There are twelve such malls, and of those twelve, eight are in Southeast Asia. Four are in the Philippines. (We’re sorry about the fact that one yellow dot in the Philippines and one in Bangkok got buried under other yellow dots) Our hints this week talked a lot about the Philippines, which has developed a culture in which shopping malls play a significant part. We mentioned that many people in the Philippines do not have air conditioning at home. When it gets really hot during the middle of the day in the summer, many Filipinos go cool off by hanging out at the mall.

The proliferation of malls in China and Southeast Asia reflects the rapid economic development of this part of the world. Most of these malls have been built in this century, and many more malls are currently being planned or built. What do you think this map might look like in ten years or more? If current trends hold, one would expect lots more dots in Southeast Asia.

One of the malls represented by green dots is worth mentioning. The one in Dubai, known as the Dubai Mall, is by some measures the largest mall in the world. Dubai is also a place where you might not want to spend time outside in the middle of summer, so indoor malls are attractive. But there is a lot more to do at the Dubai Mall than just shop: there’s a SEGA-branded theme park, an aquarium, and a 250-room hotel. These other attractions help make the Dubai Mall one of the most visited buildings in the entire world, but they also take away from the amount of space that can be leased to retailers. As a result, the Dubai Mall is only the world’s 21st largest mall in terms of gross leasable area.

You also may have noticed that there are some notable large malls in places with very cold weather, including West Edmonton, Alberta; Bloomington, Minnesota; and Erie, Pennsylvania. These are not cities where you want to go window shopping outdoors on the street during the middle of winter!

But enough talk about bad weather. See that light blue dot in Hawaii? That’s the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. Ever since it opened in 1958, it has been the world’s largest open-air mall. Of all the malls on this map, it may well be the one in the most pleasant setting—there’s even a beach right next door.

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