In recent months, I’ve toured the worst zip codes America has to offer. The rhyming factor in each zip code is deterioration post ‘American High’ (mid-1960s). This weekend, I’m bringing you a treat from West Baltimore, where the homicide rate is spiraling out of control. In some areas, it’s so bad that mobile police stations in 40 foot RV’s are patrolling the streets. Block after block, it resembles a post-apocalyptic view of America, if industry fails to return. We’ll save this story for later.
On my travels from West Baltimore, I stumbled across a 200 year old mall called ‘Old Town Mall’. Established in 1818, the mall contains 64 stores, the majority of which are abandoned. The decay of the mall started in the post-world war era as Baltimore’s population peaked, then started to dwindle. The mall was briefly revived after the 1968 Baltimore Riots catering to a new demographic. The revival ended in the 1980s with high unemployment and population decrease wreaking havoc in Baltimore’s community.
As you know, the United States is rapidly descending into the ‘retail apocalypse’ with over 21 retailers closing 3591 stores in 2017. This is due to a combination of consumer trends, first the migration to e-commerce, and second the consumer is flat broke. According to retail anaylst Jan Kniffen, “about one-third of malls in the U.S. will shut their doors in the coming years”. Consumerism in America has been a long standing pillar of our society. Unfortunately, the consumer has stage three cancer with non-productive debt, mix match in skills, and low wages already forcing major cracks in the consumerism pillar. The final blow to the consumerism pillar could be hinted in BOFA’s latest statement, “we’re hitting ‘peak youth’, and a ‘demographic tidal wave’ is coming”.