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Mall vs. Department Store: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 15, 2023
A mall is a large building or complex containing a variety of stores and often restaurants, while a department store is a large retail store offering a wide range of products under one roof.

Key Differences

A mall is a large complex that houses multiple stores, restaurants, and entertainment facilities under one roof or in a connected area. A department store, in contrast, is a singular retail establishment offering a variety of goods, often categorized into sections or departments.
Malls provide a diverse shopping experience with a variety of individual retailers, each specializing in different types of products or services. Department stores combine multiple product categories, like clothing, electronics, and home goods, into a single, large retail space.
The primary purpose of a mall is to offer a broad range of shopping and leisure activities, often including cinemas and food courts. A department store focuses on retail sales, offering a wide array of products, typically without the entertainment or dining options found in malls.
In terms of layout, malls are designed as a series of interconnected stores with shared common areas and facilities. Department stores have a centralized design, where different departments are located within the same building, usually spread across multiple floors.
Malls often serve as community centers and social gathering spots, hosting events and providing public spaces. Department stores, while they may attract a large number of shoppers, primarily function as a destination for purchasing a wide range of products.

Comparison Chart


A large complex with multiple retail stores and facilities.
A singular large store offering various products in departments.

Variety of Retailers

Hosts numerous independent retailers.
Contains various departments within one retailer.

Additional Facilities

Includes entertainment and dining options.
Primarily focused on retail without additional facilities.


Interconnected stores with shared common spaces.
Centralized layout with different sections in one building.


Serves as a shopping and social hub.
Solely focused on retail sales of diverse products.

Mall and Department Store Definitions


A large complex featuring a variety of stores and often restaurants.
They spent the afternoon at the mall, shopping and catching a movie.

Department Store

A retailer with different sections for various types of merchandise.
The department store's furniture section had an excellent selection of sofas.


An area where people can find various goods and services.
The mall has a diverse selection of stores, from electronics to clothing.

Department Store

A retail establishment with multiple departments under one roof.
The department store’s beauty section offers a wide range of cosmetics and skincare products.


A shopping center with multiple retailers under one roof or area.
The new mall downtown offers an impressive range of fashion stores.

Department Store

A large retail store offering a wide range of products.
They bought clothes, kitchenware, and toys all from the same department store.


A commercial establishment hosting shops, eateries, and entertainment.
The mall is popular for its extensive food court and arcade games.

Department Store

A store providing diverse goods, from apparel to home appliances.
The new department store is popular for its quality electronics department.


A place for shopping, dining, and leisure activities in a single location.
Families often visit the mall on weekends for shopping and fun.

Department Store

A one-stop shop for a variety of consumer products.
She prefers shopping at the department store for its convenience and variety.


A large, often enclosed shopping complex containing various stores, businesses, and restaurants usually accessible by common passageways.


A street lined with shops and closed to vehicles.


What is a mall?

A mall is a large complex hosting a variety of stores, dining options, and entertainment facilities.

Are malls indoor or outdoor?

Malls can be either indoor or outdoor, with some combining both elements.

Do department stores have food courts?

Most department stores focus on retail and may not have extensive dining options like malls.

What can you find in a mall?

Malls offer diverse shopping, eating, and leisure activities, from fashion stores to cinemas.

What products are sold in department stores?

Department stores sell items like clothing, electronics, cosmetics, and home goods.

Do malls have specific themes?

Some malls may have thematic designs or focus on specific retail categories.

How do department stores attract customers?

Department stores attract customers through a wide product range, sales, and loyalty programs.

What services do malls offer?

Malls often provide services like parking, customer assistance, and event spaces.

Are department stores considered malls?

No, department stores are singular retail establishments, unlike the multiple-retailer structure of malls.

What is a department store?

A department store is a large retail space offering a wide range of products in various departments.

What is the history of malls?

Malls have evolved from simple marketplaces to modern, multi-use complexes.

How do malls differ from shopping centers?

Malls are typically larger and offer more diverse facilities compared to shopping centers.

Are malls suitable for families?

Yes, malls are popular family destinations for shopping and entertainment.

Can you find a department store in a mall?

Yes, department stores are often anchor tenants in malls.

Can you find luxury brands in department stores?

Yes, some department stores feature sections for luxury brands and designer goods.

Do malls host events?

Malls often host events like fashion shows, holiday celebrations, and promotional activities.

Do department stores offer online shopping?

Many department stores now offer online shopping options alongside their physical locations.

What impact do malls have on local economies?

Malls can significantly impact local economies by attracting shoppers and creating jobs.

Are malls and department stores competitors?

While they compete in retail, malls and department stores also complement each other, especially when department stores are located within malls.

How have malls and department stores adapted to online shopping?

Both have incorporated online shopping platforms and digital marketing strategies to complement their physical presence.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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