As sacred as ancestral shrines in Japan, mosques in Iran, or beaches in Brazil, the shopping mall has for decades been a place of worship in the United States. Since its inception in the 1940s, it's grown to define and represent the very culture of mainstream America – and like other representations of the American culture, the mall has been copied and appropriated by nations the world over. But now, while sprawling indoor shopping centers and hypermarkets flourish in far-off countries of the first, second, and third worlds, the mall in America might be on its way out. Not one new indoor shopping mall will be built in America till at least 2009, compared to 5 built in 2005. In 2002 just 19% of U.S. retail purchases were made in malls, down from 38% in 1995.

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