Malls Are Dead

Proving The Null Hypothesis

Most people in Silicon Valley believe malls are dead. As a venture that even the President knows launched out of Stanford, the first American clothing brand ever launched online, and now a company that has re-imagined the clothing store for the digital age, we couldn’t agree more. We call that re-imagined store a Guideshop, and we believe that putting them in malls is the beginning of the end.

So why are we doing it?

We believe that human beings are being fundamentally altered by technology. Consider the modern courtship ritual of two lovers staring dreamily into their respective smartphones. Why grapple uncomfortably with silence, when you can download new emojis? Or play with Snapchat, which enables the pictures you take to disappear, so that your grandchildren might never know who Billy was, or why he was spray-painted in the first place? Thanks to e-readers we never have to suffer a quiet cup of coffee in a cafe, and because of Google Earth, we have no need to travel. Why spend hours on a trans-Atlantic flight, when you can see the splendor of the pyramids on a high-def flat screen, with a bowl of virtual popcorn on your tablet/lap?

Look at what happened to dinosaurs like Apple and Tesla when they went into malls. Going extinct, right? At Bonobos we believe that human beings are tired of shopping in stores. And if you really think about it, a mall is a just cluster of stores, with a Starbucks here and a Panda Express there. We no longer need to touch and feel everything, or try on the clothes before we buy them. We do not need to gather communally as we’ve been doing for millennia. We are just not that social anymore.

Combine that with capitalism and consumerism, which are now like receding waves in America, and all malls will be closed soon. Particularly strip malls. Everyone in the US is moving to cities, in fact everyone will soon be living in New York City, where there are no malls, or Los Angeles, where you dare not venture into traffic to find one. We have no use for knowledgeable service professionals when everything’s on the Internet anyway, and we now have other ways to truly be social with friends and to really connect with loved ones. Like Instagram.

At Bonobos we know that software eats the world. Why else would we have raised venture capital? This includes the coming revolution in downloadable food (sorry, Panda). Soon, they will be printing digital clothing from 3-D printers. The scans will be provided by TSA. To buy the clothes, you get to the digital store via a self-driving car expertly directed by Waze drones. Eventually, the singularity implies we won’t need any creative professionals either, like fashion designers or art directors. Human-created art will go away, made better by android citizen-hybrids who will not only be able to beat Gary Kasparov at chess, but who will also reverse-engineer actual human feelings. These benevolent terminators will go on to create fabulous works of art, like the miraculous staging of the wonderful book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Everyone knows robots write the best books and make the best music. Just look at Daft Punk.

It’s all about experimentation now. That’s what the robots want. Let’s give it to ‘em. To prove our null hypothesis false, or the actual hypothesis true, or whatever that stats professor was saying, we are running an experiment.

So what exactly are we testing?

We are opening Guideshops in malls to prove the null hypothesis. If the stores fail, we will know that malls are in fact going away.

We opened our 12th Guideshop and our first outdoor mall location at Westfield UTC in San Diego, and we opened our 14th Guideshop at the indoor Westfield Montgomery center, in Bethesda, Maryland.

At these Guideshops, we’re taking the online experience off-line. You get amazing customer service. You get to try on the best-fitting clothes on the planet. And it’s all done in a way that wouldn’t be possible if we stocked the stores with the product for take-home. The key benefit is the availability of the largest range of fit, color, and size combinations in human history. Once we have fitted and styled you perfectly, your Guide places an order and we ship it to you. Fast. Maybe not quite as quickly as Waze drones, but a day or two isn’t too bad. Other than the burdensome prospect of free shipping both ways and the energetic and helpful Ninjas, the obvious downside is that you don’t get the privilege of walking out carrying bags.

Everyone loves bags.

Don’t they?


Thank you, King Jeremy of Twitter, for inspiring this reflection.

And in regards to future plans and Prussian kings:

Max, no way on King of Prussia. By then we will have proven that malls are toast. Speaking of which, do you know where I can download a dog? I want a BarkBox subscription, I just don’t want a dog that shits.