City Journal: That Ain’t Mall They’re Selling

By Jason Feifer | Boston Magazine |

Some pointed questions for the branding brains at a local shopping mecca.


On recent visits to Burlington Mall, I’ve been left to wander aimlessly. Try as I might, I can’t get my hands on the hottest item in the place: those free store maps that mall brass usually have on offer. Scarce as they are, I can’t help but think fellow shoppers are snatching them up with more interest in the cover than the contents.

On the front is a sultry woman better suited to South Beach than suburbia, her top a mere thread from bursting, her lips parted in a way that suggests she ain’t whispering, “Shop till you drop.” Who is this new face of the mall? A shopper dolled up for the food court? Clues are scarce in the closely cropped photo: no storefronts or bags (if it’s clothes she’s peddling, she should know hers don’t fit).

Inside the mall, she stares me down from a big poster. “Dressing as you do,” the text reads, “you’re always in your element.” A look around—shiftless teens, speed-walking grandmothers—makes me wonder what element that is, exactly.