Classic department store?

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Trenchfriend, Feb 17, 2021.

  1. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Yeah - gentrification in my lifetime was in every decade since the 1960's. Areas come in and out of fashion, change character and sometimes revert to earlier times.
     
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  2. dlite90

    dlite90 Familiar Face

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    Well CO’s been a trendy place for a while. In most of pre-recession USA the downtowns were being ignored in favor of McMansion developments on the side of the highway. Those were good days for malls.
    After the recession the in-town lifestyle came into popularity and the largest American cities saw a huge uptick in population that only slowed down when eventually the working-class folks couldn’t afford NYC/LA/SF/Boston anymore.
     
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  3. Trenchfriend

    Trenchfriend

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    Yeah, that was my above question. The question, when the classic department stores became "uncool". And I feared, someone would say 70s.
     
  4. Trenchfriend

    Trenchfriend

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    An easy example on "fashion", today.

    How to get nice wax jacket, the easiest, fastest way?
    I know, the youngsters would never visit department store to buy a Barbour jacket. They just visit "motorcycle stores", where solid wax jackets are sold in masses, on underprices.

    And that's, what was mentioned here above. The survivors in the city centers will probably be the small, specialized "hobby" stores.
     
  5. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Or huge scale stores that sell just one type of thing - stationary; electrical gear; furniture, whatever. That's why the department store doesn't work any more. It tries to do to much and can't do anything well.
     
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  6. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Why feared? Remember before there were malls there were department stores. They were in fact the first mall - everything under one roof. In the 1970's department stores were not cool but they were still popular. These are two different things.
     
  7. Trenchfriend

    Trenchfriend

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    Just an idiom.
     
  8. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    I get the feeling that it has very much accelerated the way things were going anyhow, the main effect being to sweep up the last of the refuseniks for online shopping who must by this point be becoming convinced. I've long been buying most things online, either through lack of availability anywhere else (specialist vinyl, books, my clothes, especially trousers), or the keener price. Sure, I'd love to support a small, local bookshop over an online giant like Amazon. Thing is, I'm not financially well enough off that I can justify spending literally double the price in most instances....plus even before it closed and moved away, my local bookshop just didn't stock most of what I wanted, and I'd have had to wait for much longer than Amazon's next day delivery, as well as paying twice the price...

    It feels to me that just as the traditional department stores were gradually repalced by the mall, so too now much retail is being replaced by the web. It's a logical thing, really - price aside, for items which you need to order and have delivered *anyhow*, especially electricals and such where one item is identical to the next, the convenience of online ordering is a no-brainer.

    My feeling is that retail in bricks and mortar stores will increasingly evolve to become 'destination' shopping (a famous brand such as Harrods, or Fortnum & Mason, or Selfridges), or retailing either the sorts of goods where the customer values the look and feel of an individual example (a musical instrument - especially used, a second-hand car) - though even in that latter case (and with those specific examples) the online sales model is fast becoming normalised. I suspect we may well still see shops offering specialist, niche retail experiences, but it will be very much a combination of that and online sales. The description of the specialist record store in Nick Hornby's Hi-Fidelity - which provided a social space for a certain kind of patron, but in reality did most of its business by mail - is a pertinent one. At the time the book was written (1995), ecommerce was still science fiction; now, that oddball shop in the book is a very common business model.

    Aero's factory shop is an excellent example of how I see retail for many things going - you can visit, for many fans of the brand it's a once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime trip to see where, how, and by whom your stuff is made, but most transactions will be online.

    Whether there will always be a mall or a big department store that kids will hang out in as a socialising option? Who knows. The O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) here in London is a good example of how some retail might survive - shops (or outlet shops) alongside primarily an entertainment space, with live music & comedy, a cinema, many restaurants. Spots for impulse buys, or as a 'showroom'. I think the 'showroom' aspect will become a much more staple version of retail. Appledo it well with their tech help and so on; I havea suspicion we'll see a lot more places that are a combination of helpdesk and showroom so you can try the product if you wish, then order it online. It's how many people already use electrical stores - it makes sense for those companies to actually build their model around it rather than suffer the experience of lots of folks coming to look, then buying cheaper elsewhere online.

    Tootenham Court Road here in London twenty years ago was all hifi and tech stores. Now those are all gone, and it's mostly high-end furniture showrooms (try your sofa, see the options, order your spec and arrange delivery when it's been made to order), eateries, and opticians (which you obviously have to go to in person...). That's how I expect to see things evolving.

    There are birght spots here. The pandemic has seen the collapse in the UK not only of some traditional stores (Debenhams has gone under; evne the mighty M&S is rumoured to be struggling more than it already was), but also kiddy-focussed, fast-fashion giants like TopShop in particular. I wouldn't see it as abackwards cultural step at all if kids' socialising experienceswent back to coffee houses and the cinema rather than congregating on a Satuday afternoon to buy cheap, fast fashion made in sweatshops... Maybe the ever-faster delivery speeds from online shopping will be just enough to satisfy, leading to a (slightly) slower fashion takeover rather than buying an almost disposable item to be worn once and thrown out, as regularly happens now?

    The 'new' department stores here in the UK are really the big supermarkets - I'm sure influenced by the Wallmart type model. Our local Sainsburys isa flagship store with an incredbile range of foodstuffs, homeware, and (often surprisingly nice) basic clothing ranges, which are also ethically produced. It doesn't all suit me (the trousers are, inevitably, too low in the rise and too narrow in the leg for my tastes), but every so often they produce something that has a really nice cut or look, and I buy all my underwear there. With their ability to spread the cost, they can compete with online. They also offer bigger ranges online, some exclusive items, on 'click and collect'. C&C has been very popular in recent years as it's much easier for a lot of folksthatwaiting home all day for a courier delivery (pre-pandemic); buinesses who offer it can also increase footfall.

    Apart from a handful of business types (food, mainly, and live entertainment) where onlnie consumption isn't realistic, we may also see new business models evolve. How about a cool cafe / entertainemtn space where you could collect your parcel, usea changing room to see if your new jeans fit - if they don't, arrange a return onsight - and grab a coffee with your pals? Maybe there could be store hifi booths where you could listen to your new vinyl lp immediately with your friends over a coffee or a coke? Changing conditions can be positive: my local area in the last twenty years has seen a rise in ice cream parlours, coffee houses, nice places to go and sit and socialise if you don't particularly feel like going to the pub - all created to meet market demand as the kids and grandkids of an immigrant diaspora who traditionally don't consume alcohol are around in increasing numbers at an age where they can't legally go to the pub, even if they could drink. It's provided some great hang-out spaces for all kids locally, which is fantastic. I'd have loved to have had even one of these places in the village I grew up in, where if you didn't want to sit in an old-people cafe, there was literally nowhere to hang out if you weren't old enough for the pub. It's changed markedly now - thanks to the post-peace process, Game of Thrones inspired tourist boom. (There's an appreciable irony in Northern Ireland having had little or no tourism for decades because people were afraid of the violence of the Troubles, and now a show filled with brutal violence is what has them flocking there.)

    I'm hoping that the upshot of all this will be high streets starting to become 'local' again, and that the web will be the end of the Generation X phenomenon Douglas Coupland identified, where everywhere is the same because all the shops are the same...



    And therein lies the rub... When The Dandy (DC Thompson comic, est 1935 - a few months older than the Beano, though in recent decades much less successful than its sibling) went out of print and became available in digital form only a few years ago, plenty of people bemoane it asasad loss to the culture, but crucially none of them had bought it for decades.

    For myself, I know exactly the Christmas experience you discuss - and I enjoy it on the odd year when it's an option (many years we're rushing form the endof work for the term to get packed up and fly to my parents for a week; seasonal travel is part of the holiday experience I sort of enjoy, but it's still a stress every time). Thing is, though, I enjoy it becasue I'm stepped back from the chaos - I did all my shopping by October, so now I'm just watching everyone else panic while I have a tea...

    Necessity is the mother of invention an aw that. Amazon may have killed many's a bookstore, even the ones with a good coffee shop, but new models will arise.
     
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  9. Trenchfriend

    Trenchfriend

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    Amazon's predecessor in Germany was the famous Quelle catalog and Otto and Neckermann, of course. ;)

    Wow, you telephoned for ordering, back then! :D (Still possible, of course)
     
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  10. MisterCairo

    MisterCairo I'll Lock Up

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    I visited the oldest book store in Canada, Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2006. It closed soon after. The straw that broke the back - accepting delivery from Amazon of a book ordered by an apartment tenant upstairs. The bookstore had a copy on their shelf.

    I have never seen a book at half price on Amazon that was not used, as our shops sell at publisher set sale price. Sometimes shops close because people are lazy. I can wait a fortnight for a book.
     
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  11. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    True, that. Generally, anyway. Yet the big-box “home improvement” stores, that stock everything from tulip bulbs to toaster ovens, appear to be doing well.

    Used to be that we’d go to the hardware store as much for advice as the merchandise itself. (Hardware stores that still offer that are rare treasures these days; if you know of one, send your business its way.)

    At a nearby Lowe’s I bought (contrary to my own best advice) a snowblower with the assistance of a woman who was incorrect about there being oil in the engine. (There was; she said there wasn’t.) On another visit the same sales associate mixed a gallon of paint to match the paint I had purchased at the same store some days prior. But it didn’t match. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she is now dispensing bad advice to shoppers in the garden department.

    It’s not that workers in mega-stores can’t specialize. Some do, I’m sure. But too often management, in the interest of getting the most from each employee’s work hour, let “efficiency” trump quality.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2021
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  12. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Those types of stores -- the Ben Franklins, the Kresges, and chains like that -- sort-of filled the niche midway between the Woolwoorth's-type five-and-ten and the regular department store, a niche that got displaced but not quite really taken over by the shopping-plaza discount stores of the 50s-70s. Probably the closest thing we have to them today are the dollar stores -- which have a similar array of merchandise, but are actually a bit chintzier and grubbier than even the five-and-tens I remember from my childhood.

    There was still a functioning Ben Franklin store in a town near here into the early 2000s, but it didn't last much beyond that.
     
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  13. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    ^^^^
    Out West there was a chain called Sprouse-Reitz, which at its peak numbered some 400-plus stores. Among the last of them was in the little tourist town where my dear old ma and baby sister reside. It folded up in the early 1990s, if memory serves. It was something of an anachronism then, which just made it all the better, in my book.
     
  14. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Ouch. Unless there's a major price difference (or other reason the tenants did not wish to purchase there), that's the ultimate in laziness!

    I've found in the past a very significant discrepancy between what I can buy a book for on Amazon and store prices. I feel sorry for the small independents, less so for the big chains who back in the nineties campaigned successfully to bring an end to the net book agreement (and succeeded, driving many independents out of business), and now are crying that someone has effectively turned a situation of their own making against them.

    Where Amazon are a nono for me is with second-hand books, as a rule. Conditional may or may not be as the seller describes; I was last year sent a cheap paperback secondhand copy of a book I had purchased on the understanding that it was an out of print hardbound copy. Not directly Amazon's fault as it's marketplace, but it does feel hit and miss. Again, I'd only ever go used from them if I couldn't find it elsewhere.

    Interestingly, outside of self-publishing and the dustier corners of genre-fiction, I get the impression eBooks haven't been quite the same threat to physical publishing as once feared. Perhaps I'm not so alone as I thought in resenting the idea of paying only a quid or two less for an ephemeral copy than for the hard artefact itself, given that the increased revenue occasioned by the lack of physical existence is predominantly, disproportionately retained by the middleman and not the author.

    I'd love to see ebooks become more common in academia, but the big problem we're now having is how many of the publishers have seen the ebook revolution as a means to squeeze out even more profit (academics make precious little on royalties; in ten years in print, I've been lucky to see a couple of weeks' salary from our book, and nothing from the pile of other stuff I published). eBooks have become much more in demand this year for obvious reasons, but the new normal is for publishers to put together a long list of books - many of which may be of no interest to us - and charge a scandalously high annual subscription fee rather than selling us an 'online copy'. The same subscription model being used to shaft the consumer in so many areas now...

    In terms of waiting time, I always used to wait a few extra days with Amazon rather than pay for postage. I've waited up to a month for some of my Chinese fountain pens rather than buy them from a UK seller at three times the price. Now we have Prime, it is definitely a big plus, but I'm not averse to waiting if it avoids a shipping charge.

    Back in the 90s, one of the big chain DIY places in the UK started an "expert booth" - basically, they employed a lot of typically retired older men looking for part time work, a bit of pocket money, get out of the house a couple of days a week, to dole out free advice to customers from folks who actually used the products, had done the jobs, knew what they needed and why... At the time, I had a student job as Saturday / holiday boy in an independent shop in the next town North from our village. Traditional DIY supplies, woodyard, sold a lot of stuff to the plumbing and building trade as well as public direct. We had a good laugh at the big boxes announcing as if revolutionary what we'd been providing forever. I used to enjoy customers who'd previously said we were too expensive returning, having spent more on petrol than they'd save per item to go to the out of town big chain places only there to discover that their widget might be twelve pence each instead of twenty, but they couldn't buy them in less than a pack of twenty and they only needed one or two, or that they'd have to buy an entire new door handle assembly when all they needed was the spring....
     
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  15. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Wackers is the one I always remember across the southern U.S. Seems like the Mitchell's department stores lasted until around 2000.

    2b3fc07713932a73b8aee36a3a529d62.jpg images.jpeg
     
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  16. Rats Rateye

    Rats Rateye New in Town

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    Well, LizziMaine pretty much stole my thunder bringing up Woolworth (Loved their revolving lunch counter BTW), and Ben Franklin. But another that I remember is the Gimbels Department Store. It was pretty much a middle-class option like Sears. An interesting fact is that the idea of a department-store parade originated in 1920 with Gimbels Department Store in Philadelphia. Macy's did not start their parade until 1924.
     
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  17. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    WE had Woolworths in Ireland and the UK, though they were a victim of the 2008 era crash. Not sure if they were anything to do with the Woolworths in the US. I remember than being a great place to buy sweeties as a kid; they also did stationery, toys, and records / tapes / CDs... not a full on department store, though. A lot of the UK ones have gone since 2008 - BHS, C&A pulled out of the UK, Debenhams recently gone; evne the venerable John Lewis have cut some of their outlets.

    I am sure most of the uniquely Northern Ireland ones I frequented as a kid are long gone now. Surprisingly, I see Moores of Coleraine and The White House in Portrush are still on the go. Anderson MaCauley in Belfast is one of which I have fond memories; they are long gone now - only a name on a building split up into a range of smaller shops (among them a KFC) now.
     
  18. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    There were many dime-store chains here, all of which aped the Woolworth's model very closely. We had a Newberry's here up until the mid-90s where I used to get lunch when I worked at the radio station in a building across the street, and it was a great convenience having a place so close by where I could get trivial items on short notice without having to get in the car. But it too fell to the Wal-Mart invasion a few years before the entire chain collapsed. The building is now part of the local art museum, which epitomizes everything that's now wrong with our downtown. You can get Wyeth postcards, a $7 glass of beer, or a plate of raw oysters in that downtown but good luck finding a pair of socks or a copy of the Boston Globe.
     
  19. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Always the tricky bit when local businesses are geared towards a visitng rather than local market. Mind you, in the village I grew up in, the big problem was everyone was so hung up on that rural Northern Ireland thing of not wanting your business known that few businesses beyond a newsagents and a couple of cornershops and takeawaysever survived, because everyone went to do their shopping out of town, away from the gossips. Changing now - alongside interesting businesses for the new tourists arising - but the old ways haven't fully gone.
     
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  20. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    The gentrification of Seattle, where I lived for 40-some years, was well under way 40 years ago. As was the diversification of its suburbs.

    There was an effort going back nearly that far to make the downtown retail core more pedestrian oriented, which in practice made it less automobile friendly, which had a predictably unfavorable effect on that retail core. (Some time later a large retail redevelopment in the midst of that district included a huge parking garage, financed in part with HUD funds. A bit of a scandal, that.)

    A section of Pine Street, which runs through the heart of that district, was for a while closed off to motor vehicle traffic. (Part of the pedestrian-friendly effort mentioned above.) Nordstrom, which had been kitty-corner on Pine Street from the far larger Frederick & Nelson department store (which was going under on account of the bankruptcy of its parent corporation), had designs on the F&N building for its flagship store, but only if Pine Street was reopened to car traffic. Long story short, it was put to the ballot, and Nordstrom prevailed.
     
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  21. dlite90

    dlite90 Familiar Face

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    Seattle experienced an unusual amount of growth due to its tech scene, but, again, most American cities vastly favored car-oriented, sprawled suburban development in that time period. You saw a lot more housing tracts and strip malls going up than urban infill in the city. Especially the time you're talking about (the 1980s, when cities were emptying out faster than ever and inner-city crime was the highest in American history (the 80s also saw the birth of the McMansion)). The hollowing-out was accelerated by the government building freeways everywhere, often through downtown cores (a popular idea in the 60s which turned out to be detrimental).

    On another note, making downtowns more pedestrian-oriented does not necessarily mean making them less auto-friendly and it's usually good for retail (especially when you add bike lanes and transit). Road diets actually improve traffic flow and safety. A total ban on cars, though, isn't the best way to do it.

    Europeans had wars which bombed their old city centers, but Americans simply demolished their city centers for parking lots and freeways. Kansas City, 1906 vs today:
    kansas city.jpg
     
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