An example of a small strip mall in Onalaska, Wisconsin

A strip mall, strip center, strip plaza or simply plaza is a type of shopping center common in North America and Australia where the stores are arranged in a row, with a footpath in front. Strip malls are typically developed as a unit and have large parking lots in front. Many of them face major traffic arterials and tend to be self-contained with few pedestrian connections to surrounding neighborhoods. Smaller strip malls may be called mini-malls, while larger ones may be called power centers or big box centers. In 2013, The New York Times reported that the United States had 65,840 strip malls.[1] In 2020, The Wall Street Journal wrote that in the United States, despite the continuing retail apocalypse starting around 2010, investments and visitor numbers were increasing to strip malls.[2]

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, strip malls are called retail parks or retail outlets. They are usually located on the outskirts of most towns and cities, and serve as an alternative to the High Street in the UK or Main Street in Ireland. Retail parks have become popular due to the widespread use of cars and the ability to park close to the shops as opposed to the High Street, which is usually pedestrianised.

In Australia, "strip shops" or "shopping strip" describes a line of independent shops and buildings along the principal streets of a city or suburban area, which are not set back from the pavement (footpath) and do not have dedicated car parking spaces.[3]


Strip malls and retail parks often range in size from 5,000 square feet (460 m2) to over 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2).

In the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) classification of shopping centers, U.S. and Canadian strip malls may fit the definition of:

Note that ICSC classifications vary slightly for Europe as well as for Asia Pacific.


The Park & Shop in Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C. (1930) is one of the earliest examples of a small center with dedicated on-site parking in front.

The Park and Shop in Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C. opened in 1930, anchored by a Piggly Wiggly supermarket. It was built in an L shape with dedicated parking space for shoppers in the front, a novelty at the time. The center still exists as of 2020, anchored by a Target store[6] and measuring 50,400 square feet (4,680 m2).[7]


Mini-mall/strip plaza

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.[1] This type of strip mall or plaza is found in nearly every city or town in the United States and Canada; it is service-oriented and may contain a grocery store, hair salon, dry cleaner, laundromat, small restaurant, discount stores, variety stores, and similar stores such as a general store, toy store, pet store, jewelry store, mattress store, convenience store, thrift shop, or pawn shop. In the past, pharmacies were often located next to the grocery stores, but are now often free-standing or contained within the anchor tenant (e.g. Walmart, Target) or grocery store. Gas stations, banks, and other businesses also may have their own free-standing buildings in the parking lot of the strip center.

Mini-malls in Los Angeles

Example of a mini-mall in Los Angeles, California
Example of a mini-mall in Los Angeles, California

The mini-mall in Los Angeles is seen as the descendant of the drive-in markets with multiple independent vendors that appeared in the area in the 1920s. The 1973 oil crisis bankrupted many gas stations, freeing up their corner lots for redevelopment. La Mancha developers built the first modern-style mini-mall – a few stores with parking in front – in Panorama City, Los Angeles in 1973, with over 600 to follow in the metropolitan area. The proliferation of mini-malls from that time into the 1980s led to a 1988 anti-mini-mall ordinance in Los Angeles.[8][9][10]

Big box center/power center

The other variety of strip mall in the United States is usually anchored on one end by a big box retailer, such as Walmart, Kohl's, or Target, and/or by a large supermarket like Kroger, Publix or Winn-Dixie on the other. 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, dollar stores, and boutiques. There are typically only a few of this type of strip malls in a city, compared to the smaller types. Retailers vary from center to center, ranging from three or four large retailers to a dozen or more. Some strip malls are hybrids of these types.

See also


  1. ^ a b Kramer, Andrew E. (January 1, 2013). "With a Mall Boom in Russia, Investors Go Shopping". The New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2013.
  2. ^ Fung, Esther (January 14, 2020). "Strip Centers Shine as Some Shoppers Sour on Malls". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  3. ^ Featherstone, Tony (August 30, 2017). "Local shopping precincts suffer as giant malls become the de-facto town centre". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved March 29, 2020.
  4. ^ "US Center Classification" (PDF). Retrieved 2020-05-16.
  5. ^ "About Us". South Edmonton Common. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  6. ^ Kaplan, Jacob (July 17, 2017). "They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Park and Shop". Boundary Stones. WETA. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  7. ^ Cooper, Rebecca (December 18, 2020). "Sam's Park & Shop in Cleveland Park sold". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  8. ^ "A Brief History of the Mini-Mall". Los Angeles Times. November 16, 1997.
  9. ^ Meares, Hadley (October 2, 2019). "How LA became the land of strip malls". Curbed LA.
  10. ^ "The men behind the Southern California mini-mall". March 7, 2008.