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Mall vs. Shopping Center: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 3, 2023
Mall is a large indoor shopping complex with various stores and often includes entertainment facilities, while a shopping center is a group of retail stores and businesses located in a common area, usually outdoors.

Key Differences

A mall typically refers to a large, enclosed shopping area with a wide range of stores, dining options, and often entertainment facilities. A shopping center, however, is usually an open-air complex that houses multiple retailers, service providers, and sometimes a supermarket.
Malls are designed with a centralized layout, often featuring a walking path and common areas for consumers. While, shopping centers might have a more spread-out layout, with stores facing a common parking area.
In a mall, shoppers experience an indoor environment, which can include aesthetic features like fountains and seating areas. Whereas, shopping centers offer an outdoor shopping experience, which can be influenced by weather conditions.
Malls often serve as social and entertainment hubs, providing amenities like movie theaters, play areas, and food courts. In contrast, shopping centers are generally more focused on shopping and may have limited dining or entertainment options.
The architecture of a mall is usually more uniform and cohesive, creating a distinct environment. Shopping centers can have varied architectural designs, depending on the individual stores.

Comparison Chart


Enclosed, indoor shopping area.
Open-air, outdoor shopping area.


Centralized layout with internal walking paths.
Spread-out layout with external access to each store.


Entertainment facilities, food courts.
Usually limited to shopping and basic services.


Designed for both shopping and socializing.
Primarily focused on shopping.


Uniform and cohesive architectural style.
Varied architectural styles among stores.

Mall and Shopping Center Definitions


A large, enclosed shopping complex with various stores.
The new mall has over a hundred stores, a cinema, and several restaurants.

Shopping Center

An open-air complex with a variety of stores and services.
They visited the shopping center to browse through the outdoor shops.


An indoor center featuring a variety of retailers and entertainment options.
They spent the afternoon at the mall, shopping and watching a movie.

Shopping Center

A retail hub, usually outdoor, with diverse shopping options.
The shopping center is busy on weekends with people buying essentials.


A commercial establishment with a wide range of stores under one roof.
The mall is a popular destination for holiday shopping.

Shopping Center

A collection of retail stores and businesses in a common area.
The shopping center near my house has a grocery store, a pharmacy, and several restaurants.


A shopping facility with a centralized layout and common areas.
The mall’s central atrium is used for seasonal displays and events.

Shopping Center

A commercial area with multiple retailers, often with ample parking.
The new shopping center offers ample parking space for customers.


An indoor retail and entertainment complex.
The mall offers more than just shopping, with its arcade and food court.

Shopping Center

A grouping of stores offering a range of products and services.
The local shopping center is a convenient place to get all my errands done.


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.


A shady public walk or promenade.


Is "mall" used worldwide?

Yes, though its popularity and exact meaning can vary by region.

What does "mall" mean?

A mall is a large, enclosed shopping area with a variety of stores and often restaurants.

Do malls always have multiple floors?

Not always, but many are multi-level to accommodate more stores.

What is a shopping center?

A shopping center is a group of stores built together, offering a variety of merchandise and services.

Is "mall" a modern term?

Yes, it gained popularity in the 20th century with the rise of large indoor shopping spaces.

Can "mall" have a non-shopping meaning?

Historically, yes, referring to promenades or public walkways.

What's a synonym for "mall"?

"Shopping center" is a common synonym.

What's the origin of "mall"?

It comes from "The Mall," a promenade in London, ultimately from an Italian term for a ball game played there.

Is "mall" an American term?

It's widely used in the U.S. but understood in many English-speaking countries.

Can "mall" refer to open-air locations?

Traditionally, no, but some modern "malls" are open-air.

Are malls only for shopping?

Primarily, but they often include entertainment options like cinemas and food courts.

Are shopping centers always in urban areas?

They can be found in urban, suburban, and sometimes rural areas.

Is "shopping center" an international term?

Yes, it's widely understood in English-speaking countries.

Does a shopping center include food options?

Often, but not as extensively as malls.

How big is a shopping center?

Sizes vary from small strips to large complexes.

What's a unique feature of shopping centers?

They may focus more on convenience and accessibility than the broader experience offered by malls.

Is "shopping center" a formal term?

It's neutral, used both formally and informally.

Does a shopping center have to be enclosed?

No, it can be open-air or enclosed.

Can "shopping center" refer to specialty centers?

Yes, like a center focusing on home goods or electronics.

What differentiates a shopping center from a mall?

Malls are typically enclosed and larger; shopping centers can be smaller and open-air.
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
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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