I’ll admit it. Once upon a time, I enjoyed shopping. I mean REALLY enjoyed shopping. I liked to look at what was out there in the market place. It was more an aesthetic experience than a consumer one. Truthfully, I couldn’t afford to buy much, but I very much enjoyed looking.
Today, we’re hearing about the death of retail. Personally, I think part of the problem is that it’s collapsing under its own weight. There’s just too many un-nutritious calories to make it sustainable or interesting. Big/more does not =better.
In recent decades retail stores got bigger and bigger while their staff of salespeople shrunk. Malls got bigger and bigger, all carrying the same stuff, no matter what the location. Monotonous.
Grocery stores got bigger and bigger, while corporate offices dreamt up ever more varieties of essentially the same product. Just think of how many varieties of cereal a grocery store must stock today. No wonder the future seems to be online. Who enjoys wandering around these football field sized containers of products few need or want? There’s a trend to order from home now, not just for convenience, but for the simplicity of the experience.
Below is an interesting chart I found on Consumer Reports, just in case you think I’m exaggerating.
|cheerios||Original, Honey Nut, Honey Nut Medley Crunch, Apple Cinnamon, Banana Nut, Frosted, Chocolate, Multi Grain, Multi Grain Peanut Butter, Dulce de Leche, Cinnamon Burst|
|Dawn dish detergent||Ultra, Ultra Antibacterial, Ultra Destinations, Ultra Platinum Power Clean, Ultra Platinum Oxi, Ultra Platinum Bleach Alternative, Ultra Hand Renewal with Olay|
|Tide liquid laundry detergent||Original Scent, Plus Febreze, Plus Febreze Sport, Free & Gentle, Plus Bleach Alternative, Coldwater, Clean Breeze, Mountain Spring, Plus Downy, With Acti-Lift|
|Head & Shoulders shampoo||Active Sport, Old Spice, Deep Clean, Hair Endurance, Refresh, Extra Strength for Men, Citrus Breeze, Ocean Lift, Dry Scalp Care with Almond Oil, Classic Clean, Sensitive Scalp Care, Itchy Scalp with Eucalyptus, Smooth & Silky, Extra Volume, Green Apple, Damage Rescue, Extra Strength, Clinical Strength, plus seven more|
|Thomas’ English Muffins||Original, 100% Whole Wheat, Multi-Grain, Light Multi-Grain, Health-Full 10 Grain, Original made with Whole Grains, Multi-Grain Fiber Goodness, Cranberry, Honey Wheat, Double Fiber Honey Wheat, Corn, Cinnamon Raisin|
Toy stores, grew bigger and bigger as well. Toy stores are loaded with junk to keep the well-heeled child entertained. Usually only for a few days or minutes, and then it’s time for something new.
Whatever happened to the corner drugstore and the druggist who knew you and your family? Now our meds are available almost 24/7 but think what’s been lost. And what do they all these giant warehouses contain? For the most part, just stuff.
In retail, it seems like the choices have become binary; on the lower end of retail, racks of junk. Cheapness rules the day, not taste nor need. On the upper end, overpriced trophy items that few can afford.
American downtowns, those that still exist, are now dominated by the same chain stores, all carrying pretty much the same thing. We’ve lost the soul of American retail, Mom and Pop stores have closed and we’re left with businesses that care only about their bottom line of profit, workers who are underpaid and/or unhappy, taking no pride in serving the customer.
There is so much merchandise of low quality now. Affordable, for sure, but how much of it is needed? I’ve read that the bulk of the unsold clothing gets carted off to Africa, to be sold by the pound. Is this the best use of our resources? There’s something about so much disposable stuff and such excess that feels inherently wrong and wasteful.
I’m sure that the reasons for the death of retail are varied, but let’s not overlook the deterioration of the personal, distinctive and hand selected experience of shopping in an environment that hasn’t been dehumanized .
Am I sounding too grouchy?