13 vintage photos of malls in their '90s glory

Don Smetzer/Getty ImagesFour girls shopping at a mall in the 1990s.

Ah, the ’90s. Everything seemed much simpler then, including shopping. Now that we have the entire internet at our disposal, it can be overwhelming to try and find exactly what we’re looking for – we have too many choices. And without smartphones and streaming, it was also the best way to kill time and hang out with friends.

Take a stroll down memory lane to see how much fun malls used to be in the ’90s.

Malls started becoming shopping Meccas in the ’80s, but by the time the ’90s rolled around, they were a full-blown phenomenon.

David Butow/Corbis via Getty ImagesShoppers browse the many stores available to them in St. Louis.

Before the internet, malls were the only place where you could get gadgets from Sharper Image, clothing from Limited Too, accessories from Claire’s, and a sticky, delicious Cinnabon all in one place.

People would go to malls and spend their entire day there.

Don Smetzer/Getty Images’90s fashion.

The hottest spot in middle school and high school was the mall.

Food courts became local hotspots.

Independent Picture Service/UIG via Getty ImagesSouthgate Shopping Mall in Sarasota, Florida.

Food court staples like Sbarro, Auntie Anne’s, and Panda Express never tasted better than under the glow of fluorescent lights.

Teens around the country became “mallrats.”

Bill Pugliano/Liaison/Getty ImagesMall of America, Minnesota, August 12, 1992.

Walkway T-shirt stalls were a mall staple.

Walking the aisles of a video store and browsing a seemingly endless selection of VHS tapes was the perfect way to spend an hour or two.

Teesside Archive/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty ImagesA video store.

Video stores are now all but extinct due to the rise of streaming. FYE, one of the most famous video stores, has been steadily closing locations across the country, and Blockbuster only has one location left – in Oregon.

Malls were a great spot to keep up-to-date on the latest in tech.

KAZUHIRO NOGI / GettyWindows 98.

There are some things you’ll only remember if you were born before the internet.

Even ’90s icons would stop by the local mall to do signings and meet fans.

Joseph Del Valle/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty ImagesThe cast of ‘Saved by the Bell’ at a mall signing.

This is something that’s held on through the decades, with teen sensations like Justin Bieber ane One Direction holding fan events through the 2000s.

Throughout the decade, malls leaned into going over the top in terms of décor, as opposed to the minimalism that’s in style today.

Galen Rowell/Getty ImagesA replica of Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria, in the West Edmonton Mall.

Random squiggly patterns and primary colours? It doesn’t get much more ’90s than that.

Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty ImagesA mall in the ’90s.

Primary colours were a hugely popular colour scheme in the ’80s and ’90s.

Tacky, themed restaurants like Planet Hollywood were all the rage.

Carolyn Schaefer/Liaison/Getty ImagesTourists line up and wait outside Planet Hollywood in the Mall of America to make reservations June, 1999 in Minneapolis.

There are now only six classic Planet Hollywood locations open today, and four resorts. There’s also a store-only location in Orlando, Florida.

The company has filed for bankruptcy twice, and has been forced to close dozens of stores.

Sears was super popular — you could find literally anything there.

Lee Balterman/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty ImagesShoppers walking into Sears store in a mall.

Sears has seen better days. The former retail giant has been inching closer to total liquidation since 2018, and there are now only 400 stores open.

Read more:
Sears, once the largest retailer in the world, has filed for bankruptcy and is closing 142 stores. Here’s how it got there.

JCPenney was also huge, but today the department store is struggling.

Glen Martin/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesA JCPenney in 1997.

JCPenney sales are sinking, and mall-based department stores in general are dying.

One of the few malls to survive the “retail apocalypse” has been the Mall of America, which is just as crowded today as it was then.

Antonio RIBEIRO/Gamma-Rapho via Getty ImagesThe Mall of America in 1992.

According to CBS, the Mall of America receives more than 40 million visitors every year – more than Disney World.

It’s tough to say what the fate of malls will be, but it’s safe to say that it was never better to visit a mall than in the 1990s.

Bill Pugliano/Liaison/Getty ImagesA mall directory in 1992.

We’ll always miss those days.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.