Justin Lee, a senior at Artesia High School in Lakewood, Calif., asked SCW for help with his senior research paper. Justin's questions involve the ways shopping center designers try to maintain and direct shoppers' interests. SCW's editors asked Tom Porter, senior principal with Atlanta-based Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates Inc., to reply via e-mail to the teen. Here is the exchange:

Justin: Why is there only one clock in the Cerritos Mall (and the clock is hidden in a wing of the mall where the traffic is very light)? My theory: It's so consumers lose track of time and continue to shop and shop just like the mall designers want them to do.

Tom: Your theory is partially correct. The old theory was similar to casinos that do not want people to keep track of time. It is not unusual to have no clocks in an older mall. But we are designing several malls that feature clocks at center court. The new concept is to provide a clock for customer confidence.

Justin: Why are there rides at the exits of the mall? My theory: The malls act like a prison ... and want to trap the consumers in to buy and buy. Parents want to leave the mall, but the kids wanna play on the rides.

Tom: The real reason most malls located rides at entrances was that (it) was leftover space and the developer used it as a revenue generator. You would be surprised how much money is made from those simple rides. It is also entertainment, which is an increasingly important aspect of mall design. And it does tend to keep the customer at the mall longer by providing an activity for children.

Justin: The design of the escalator? My theory: When you go up the escalator to the second floor, you have to walk all the way around to the other side just to go up to the 3rd floor, and, vice versa, you have to do the same when coming down the escalator. I think it's because the designers want the consumers to look at more clothes while going up to the next floor, and more clothes while going down floors.

Tom: You are dead on with your theory. All types of vertical circulation are located to draw people by as many stores as possible. Again, designs for newer centers are paying an equal amount of attention to customer comfort in locating escalators, stairs and elevators.

Justin: Why do they have stores of similarity (examples: Foot Action, Foot Locker, Finish Line) at different ends of the mall? My theory: It's because they want consumers to walk all over the mall. If one store doesn't have their item, then they have to walk to the other end just to see if they have it, and this creates a traffic flow.

Tom: Your theory is correct for older centers, but the newer centers are being designed to group the same type of tenants for customer convenience. )