We've all seen stuff like this. It's one of the most recognizable scenes in America. A row of stores along a major street with an ample supply of free parking waiting right out front. It drives me nuts.
What's wrong with strip malls, you ask. The problem is the parking. First of all it's free to drivers. That means the cost of the parking (it does cost something to the stores, since they have to own or rent extra land to give it to you) is included in the prices of the stuff you buy. So, if I walk or bike to the store, I'm helping to pay for your parking, which is not only unfair, but bad for the environment, since it gobbles up extra land and makes it easier for you to drive.
Seriously, the amount of land taken up by parking is a big deal (look at aerial photos from Google maps some time, and you'll see just how much land in cities is for cars to park). It spreads things out, so that it's harder to walk, bike and use transit, contributing to a vicious cycle where driving leads to parking which leads to more driving (and more parking). Plus, that land used to be habitat for other forms of life, now dead for our shopping pleasure.
What's the solution? Here are my preferences in order:
1) No off-street parking, if you're going to drive, park on the street and plug a meter
2) Underground or structured parking that you pay for
3) Surface parking that you pay for
And don't forget, bikes need places to park, so if we're going to build parking, the least we can do is think about that.