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Back to the Retail Future Pt. 1: 1985

As we prepare for ICSC’s annual RECon event this year, Passco is focused on the future of retail. 

And with the road to the future ahead of us, we’re also celebrating retail’s dynamic past.

In fact, we’re introducing a “Back to the Future” themed booth, and yes, it will include a DeLorean time machine. Kicking off this theme, I thought a look back to 1985, the original starting year for this blockbuster movie trilogy, would be fitting, in order to see just how far retail has come over the past 30 years.

Most everyone remembers that one of the key scenes from the movie “Back to the Future” was Marty McFly racing the DeLorean time machine back to 1955 through the mall parking lot. What many might not know was that the scene was shot at a real life mall in Puente Hills, California.

The date Marty left was October 26, 1985. Big, sprawling malls were still the “in” place to shop although the looming presence of emerging power centers was beginning to seize market share.

What’s more interesting about 1985 is the types of tenancies that were emerging at the time and how they were reflective of significant technological change occurring throughout society.

Think about this, in 1985: Microsoft is selling Windows 1.0 – Nintendo is selling its first home NES system backed by the #1 game: Super Mario Brothers – and the idea of a cell phone is purely embryonic.  New retailers are also emerging including  Blockbuster, Fry’s Electronics, Egghead Software, Comp USA and Game Stop.

1985 saw the continued central role of malls in our society and the direct impact that technological advances were having by creating a whole new breed of tenancies. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog for a look back at what happened to retail from 1985 through 2015. And then the fun one: a look into the future 30 years to 2045.  As Doc Brown said:  Roads?  Where we’re going we don’t need roads……………

Larry Sullivan is the President of Passco Companies. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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