Strip malls have developed since the 1920s, corresponding to the rise of suburban living in the United States after World War II. As such, the strip mall development has been the subject of the same criticisms leveled against suburbanisation and suburban sprawl in general. In the United Kingdom, these are called retail parks, out-of-town shopping centres, or precincts.
In most of the world the term shopping centre is used, especially in Europe and Australasia; however shopping mall is also used, predominantly in North America, but also to a large extent in Asia. Shopping precinct and shopping arcade are also used. In North America, the term shopping mall is usually applied to enclosed retail structures (and may be abbreviated to simply mall) while shopping centre usually refers to open-air retail complexes.
Malls in Ireland, pronounced "maills", are very small shopping centres placed in the centre of town. They average about twenty years in age, with a mix of local shops and chain stores. These malls do not have shops found in the high street or modern shopping centres.
Shopping centres in the United Kingdom can be referred to as "shopping centres", "shopping precincts" or just "precincts", but with American-style centres becoming more common in the UK, the term "mall" is gradually growing in use, at least among the younger generation.
Isfahan's Grand Bazaar, which is largely covered, dates from the 10th century A.D. The 10 kilometer long covered Tehran's Grand Bazaar also has a long history. The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul was built in 15th century and is still one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 58 streets and 4000 shops.
Gostiny Dvor in Saint Petersburg, which opened in 1785, should probably be regarded as one of the first purposely-built shopping malls in the world, as it consisted of more than 100 shops covering an area of over 53,000 m².
The Burlington Arcade in London was opened in 1819. The Arcade in Providence, Rhode Island introduced the concept to the United States in 1828. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy followed in the 1860s and is closer to large modern malls in spaciousness. Other large cities created arcades and shopping centres in the late 19th century and early 20th century, including the Cleveland Arcade and Moscow's GUM in 1890. Early shopping centers designed for the automobile include Market Square, Lake Forest, Illinois (1916) and Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, Missouri (1924).
An early indoor mall in the United States was the Lake View Store at Morgan Park, Duluth, Minnesota, which was built in 1915 and held its grand opening on July 20, 1916. The architect was Dean and Dean from Chicago and the building contractor was George H. Lounsberry from Duluth. The building is two-stories with a full basement and shops were originally located on all three levels. All of the stores were located within the interior of the mall with some shops being accessible from both inside and out.
However, the concept of the fully-enclosed shopping mall did not appear until the 1950s. The idea was pioneered by the Austrian-born architect and American immigrant Victor Gruen. This new generation, that were eventually called malls, included Northgate Mall, built in north Seattle, Washington, USA in 1950, Victor Gruen's Northland Shopping Center built near Detroit, Michigan, USA in 1954, and Gulfgate Mall in Houston were all originally open-air pedestrian shopping centers that later were enclosed as malls. The first enclosed, postwar shopping center (or mall) was the Gruen-designed Southdale Center, which opened in the Twin Cities suburb of Edina, Minnesota, USA in 1956. These malls moved retailing away from the dense, commercial downtown into the largely residential suburbs. This formula (of enclosed space with stores attached, away from downtown, and accessible only by automobile) became a popular way to build retail across the world. In the UK, Chrisp Street Market was the first pedestrian shopping area built with a road at the shop fronts.
The Bergen Mall, the oldest enclosed mall in New Jersey, opened in Paramus on November 14, 1957, with Dave Garroway, host of The Today Show, serving as master of ceremonies. The mall, located just outside New York City, was planned in 1955 by Allied Stores to have 100 stores and 8,600 parking spaces in a 1.5 million ft² mall that would include a 300,000 ft² Stern's store and two other 150,000 ft² department stores as part of the design. Allied's chairman B. Earl Puckett confidently announced the Bergen Mall as the largest of ten proposed centers, stating that there were 25 cities that could support such centers and that no more than 50 malls of this type would ever be built nationwide.
One of the world's largest shopping complexes at one location is the two-mall agglomeration of the Plaza at King of Prussia and the Court at King of Prussia in the Philadelphia suburb of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, USA. The King of Prussia mall has the most shopping per square foot in the US. The most visited shopping mall in the world and largest mall in the United States is the Mall of America, located near the Twin Cities in Bloomington, Minnesota, USA. However, several Asian malls are advertised as having more visitors, including Mal Taman Anggrek, Kelapa Gading Mall and Megamal Pluit, all in Jakarta-Indonesia, Berjaya Times Square in Malaysia and SM Megamall in the Philippines.
Beijing's (Peking) Golden Resources Mall, opened in October 2004, is the world's second largest mall, at 600,000 m² (approximately 6 million square ft). Berjaya Times Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is advertised at . SM Mall of Asia in the Philippines, opened in May 2006, is the world's third largest at of gross floor area. The Mall of Arabia inside Dubailand in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which will open in 2008, will become the largest mall in the world, at .
The majority of British shopping centres are in town centres, usually inserted into old shopping districts, and surrounding by subsidiary open air shopping streets. A number of large out-of-town "regional malls" such as Meadowhall, Sheffield and the Trafford Centre, Manchester were built in the 1980s and 1990s, but there are only ten of them or so and planning regulations prohibit the construction of any more. Out-of-town shopping developments in the UK are now focused on retail parks, which consist of groups of warehouse style shops with individual entrances from outdoors. Planning policy prioritizes the development of existing town centres, although with patchy success. The Metro centre, Gateshead, is the largest shopping centre in Europe with over 330 shops, 50 restaurants and an 11 screen cinema
In many cases, regional and super-regional malls exist as parts of large superstructures which often also include office space, residential space, amusement parks and so forth. This trend can be seen in the construction and design of many modern supermalls such as Cevahir Mall in Turkey. The International Council of Shopping Centers' 1999 definitions were not restricted to shopping centers in any particular country, but later editions were made specific to the U.S. with a separate set for Europe.
A regional mall is, per the International Council of Shopping Centers, in the United States, a shopping mall which is designed to service a larger area than a conventional shopping mall. As such, it is typically larger with to gross leasable area with at least two anchors and offers a wider selection of stores. Given their wider service area, these malls tend to have higher-end stores that need a larger area in order for their services to be profitable. Regional malls are also found as tourist attractions in vacation areas.
A shopping mall food court consists of food vendors offering a selection of food. At a typical food court, food is ordered at one of the vendors and then consumed at a seating area, which is normally a plaza surrounded by the counters of the multiple food vendors.
In response, a few jurisdictions, notably California, have expanded the right of freedom of speech to ensure that speakers will be able to reach consumers who prefer to shop, eat, and socialize within the boundaries of privately owned malls. See Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins.