A strip mall (also called a shopping plaza or mini-mall) is an open area shopping center where the stores are arranged in a row, with a sidewalk in front. Strip malls are typically developed as a unit and have large parking lots in front. They face major traffic arterials and tend to be self-contained with few pedestrian connections to surrounding neighborhoods.
In the U.S. and Canada, strip malls usually range in size from to over . The smaller variety is more common and often located at the intersection of major streets in residential areas; it caters to a small residential area. This type of strip mall is found in nearly every city or town in the U.S. and Canada; it is service-oriented and may contain a grocery store
, video rental store
, dry cleaner
, small restaurant
, and similar stores. In the past, pharmacies
were often located next to the grocery stores, but are now often contained within the grocery store. One third of supermarkets currently have pharmacies. Gas stations
, and other businesses also may have their own free-standing buildings in the parking lot of the strip center. A recent trend is for grocery stores to have bank branches and gourmet coffee houses inside the store.
The other variety of strip mall in the U.S. has large, big box retailers as the anchors, such as Wal-Mart or Target. They are usually referred to as power centers in the real estate development industry because they attract and cater to residents of an expanded population area. The categories of retailers may vary widely, from electronics stores to bookstores to home improvement stores. There are typically only a few of this type of strip malls in a city, compared to the grocery store-anchored strip mall. Retailers vary from center to center, ranging from three or four large retailers to a dozen or more.
Some strip malls are a hybrid of both of these types.
Strip malls vary widely in architecture. Older strip malls tend to have plain architecture with the stores arranged in a straight row; in some cases there are vacant stores. Newer strip malls are often built with elaborate architecture to blend in with the neighborhood and to attract the upscale consumer. In some cases, strip malls are broken up into smaller buildings to establish a more appropriate sense of scale and to create architectural articulation. A current trend with the purpose of screening the parking lot from the street and nearby residences is locating the buildings with little to no setback from the street. Some stores may allow for entrances from both the street sidewalk and the parking lot.
Due to land use issues, strip malls in the United Kingdom are typically found on the edges of cities on greenfield land sites, and are known as out of town shopping centres. Those in more urban areas (often brownfield land redeveloped sites) are more typically known as retail parks.