Major Post #2: Poker Face
In Lizabeth Cohen’s A Consumers’ Republic “Conmmerce: Reconfiguring Community Marketplaces”, she layouts how shopping malls were created, their marketing plan, and the effects they had on communities. You could read all this information she writes and believe it, but why not actually see it action to decide if it is true.
After making observations at Westfield Valley Fair Mall, we can see that it holds very similar traits to ones Cohen describes in her writing. A shopping mall like Valley Fair fits perfectly in “satisfying surbanties’ consumption and community needs” that has been “strategically locked at highway intersections” (258). Even on the Valley Fair website it says, “Westfield Valley Fair is conveniently located near the intersection of I-880 and I-280 in Santa Clara” (Valley Fair). The location is a great choice as citizens (shoppers and workers) of the Santa Clara/San Jose have easy access to the mall. This is the concept of “bringing the market to the people instead of the people to the market” (261). The mall is able to almost provide everything that is needed in one’s daily life, so the marketing quote could be: Why drive from place to place when you can make one stop and shop at the mall? With a great location plus a variety of luxury items to ordinary items, shopping at Valley Fair can save time for many consumers.
The obvious contribution Valley Fair offers to the Santa Clara/San Jose community is money. A highly successful shopping mall like Valley Fair that has thousands of people walking in and out its doors everyday benefits the town due to those thousands of people. The customers tend to be high-middle class or middle class, which ups the town’s image. “A town well enough to attract a shopping center was rewarded with a higher property values and a big boost to its property tax and sales revenues, resulting in improved local services and potentially lower tax rates for residents”, according to Cohen (266). The members of the community are able to (in a sense) profit off of having Valley Fair in their town since businesses tend to pay a lot more taxes of the town’s total revenue (266).
One secret possibility that Valley Fair holds for consumers and members of the Santa Clara/San Jose community is how to conform. When I was walking around the mall, all you see are white mannequins dressed in a certain style and in the ads of the stores white models. Cohen states “most branch department stores and new shopping centers worked to secure a white middle-class clientele” (265). With the stores reaching out to only the white middle-class and catering to “white styles”, many other ethnic shoppers are agreeing with this idea of becoming “white” by purchasing these clothes.
This brings up what is problematic about Valley Fair. This mall seems to center around high-middle class and middle class white people (majority women) who are in their early 20’s to late 30’s. The models and mannequins are telling you that you need to look a certain way and be a certain way if you want to be like them. The way the floors are structured keeping the “high class” at the bottom and the “lower” class at the top along with the food court in the back, which brings up the point on how malls try to filter out “disruptive rebels, racial minorities, and poor people” (265). To make the mall feel more welcoming to all ethnic groups, they should broaden their models to other races. Use African-American models girls at Forever21, Asian boys models at Express Men’s, or Latino models for Abercombie. The diverseness would make people feel that they can belong and can be themselves instead of trying to fit into these images society constructs for us. One way to make this change happen is first of all to make everyone aware of the situation, find supporters who agree with your idea, and start by writing letters to the head company of Valley Fair. However, Valley Fair might not have a say in how the stores display themselves. Move on to the next target, the individual stores themselves. Write letters or voice your opinion out on YouTube because without supporters, nothing is really going to change.