Why the Shopping Mall is Cool Again

For as long as we can remember, the shopping mall has been a place for teenagers and people who wore the same thing as everyone else in a signature uniform “style” thanks to the abundance of mass-producing generic stores. Somewhere in our early twenties, we ditched the shopping mall in favour of Bloor St. boutiques (during times of sales, of course) or the selection of both trendy independent shops and vintage stores along Queen West. Now, the shopping mall has taken on a whole new meaning. Keeping up with the demand for both the finer things and convenience in our constantly time-strapped young professional lives, the shopping mall has become cool again in Toronto. Here’re why: 

The Shopping is Better
The Eaton Centre has undergone efforts to keep up with the rapidly growing city and the likes of many city core dwellers for higher-end brands and recently revamped its Harry Rosen store, renovated its always-bustling Michael Kors store and opened J-Crew a few months back. On the other side of town, Yorkdale Shopping Centre‘s $185-million expansion, which was revealed on November 16th, brought with it the first Kate Spade New York store in Canada (see our launch party coverage here) along with the country’s first Ann Taylor and Ted Baker London stores. For the suburban set, Mississauga’s Square One Shopping Centre now features stores like Harry Rosen Michael Kors and Coach. A shopping mall staple, The Bay, or Hudson’s Bay as it was rebranded in October of 2012, has burst to life with fine fashion in recent years. The iconic department store has seen an introduction of higher-end brands, no shortage of designer shoes and handbags and designer departments like The Room on the third floor of the Queen St. (Eaton Centre). A favourite one-stop destination of the city’s most fashionable YP ladies, The Room was completely renovated and expanded in 2009 and its men’s counterpart, the designer label-filled West End Shop, offers finer brands for the urban man.

The Food is Better
The restaurants at Toronto-area shopping malls have historically been pretty generic. Now, we have JOEY at the Eaton Centre and Yorkdale, and young professional hot spot Earls has even made its way to Square One, a now go-to spot for the young suburban dweller. Yorkdale boasts 19 eateries, with a selection to satisfy any mid-shopping craving. It’s “Dine on 3” truly redefines the concept of “grabbing a quick bite in the food court” with a stylish experience in an environment that features skylights, an outdoor patio, fireplaces and signature tableware. It has offerings of every culinary variety, whether for a quick coffee, lunch with friends on the patio or in front of a fire… or a full-course dinner with wine. This is not even taking into account the now luxury mall’s other assortment restaurants scattered throughout the mall, most fully-licensed. In September 2011, Eaton Centre unveiled its Urban Eatery, an ultimate food court that boasts 24 self-serve restaurants, offering everything from authentic Japanese and Indian to vegan dishes.

It’s Easier
We wouldn’t be surprised if all malls soon had full coat checks and spas. The shopping mall is now doing more and becoming that all-encompassing one-stop destination. Eaton Centre’s Urban Eatery offers catering options – a sure convenience for the countless meetings taking place on any given day in surrounding office buildings. In Mississauga, Square One even has a Whole Foods for the fine grocery-loving suburban set. This means you can find that perfect outfit and all your refined crowd-pleasing appetizers for guests that evening without running all around town on a Saturday. Speaking of Saturdays, Square One is open until 9:00 on that precious day.

It’s More Refined
The shopping mall now offers a less daunting and exhausting experience. Yorkdale, for example, now has underground and curbside valet, alleviating the ever-so-annoying shopping mall nuisance of circling a packed parking lot. Additionally, the mall also has a new 800-spot parkade that features bay-to-bay parking so you won’t waste your time idling while you wait for a spot. More attention is now paid to the design and aesthetic of the shopping mall as well. Gone are the cafeteria-esque eateries and typical boxy interior. Taking a cue from Yorkdale and Eaton Centre, Square One, as well, will reveal its most dramatic transformation this year with a top-tier dining experience in the central food court that is designed with a palette of marble, stainless steel and natural wood. 

For all of these reasons, the mall makes a great way to spend a Saturday in the dead of winter – offering top-brand shopping, quality dining and even a workout as the size and scale of the shopping mall continues to increase.