Classic department store?

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

  1. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    9,309
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    ^^^^
    Still lotsa suburban sprawl here in greater Denver, where the very concept of growth management is a foreign one. And it never was that urban gentrification spelled the end of the McMansion. There are more and more people all the time, who have differing housing preferences and differing income levels. New developments of oversized houses (doesn’t every occupant of every house need his or her own bathroom these days?) keep getting built. I can drive into what had recently been rangeland 20 and 30 miles east of here and see thousands of 3,500-plus-square-foot houses.

    I fear for “revitalized” downtown retail cores, maybe not quite to the level I fear for the suburban shopping malls, but still, trends don’t look favorable. Urban dwellers shop online, too. What seemed like a swell idea 20 or 30 years ago, and a well-intended one, may turn out somewhat less so.

    A few years back I found myself in a high-end audio/video store where for the first time I saw through my own eyes a very large flatscreen on which was showing a very sharp moving image. And I thought to myself, if I was in the movie theater business, I’d be looking to get out of the movie theater business.

    I was reminded of a conversation over lunch with the elderly owner/publisher of a newspaper chain I worked for a few years prior. I asked him what he thought this Internet thing would do to the newspaper business. Don’t worry about it, he said. Radio was gonna put us out of business, TV was gonna put us out of business. And now we’re to fear the Internet? We’ve never sold more ads, never printed more pages. We’ll be fine.

    The company is a shadow of what it was then.

    I suspect that movie theaters will be with us for a good while yet, especially little art houses, but I doubt we’ll be seeing many new multiplexes. Print publications will survive, too, especially the more specialized ones, but the more mainstream, general-interest publications are increasingly an online phenomenon. And I suspect there’s a future for the department store, but increasingly as a sort of adjunct to the retailers’ online operation. And maybe that’s just being wishful.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
  2. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    9,309
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    FWIW, I live on a suburban side street which is not the most direct route to anywhere but this street. So most of the motor vehicle traffic is traveling to and from houses on this street.

    But several times a day every day but Sunday I see FedEx and UPS and, increasingly, Amazon trucks going up and down the street. There’s just the two of us living in this house, but it’s gotten that we receive three or four such deliveries in any given week. In large part, that’s stuff for which I would have visited a store in years past.

    EDIT: A FedEx truck just motored past, on a Sunday.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
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  3. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Messages:
    22,406
    Location:
    London, UK
    Back in the early eighties, my dad was treasurer of the PTA in our primary school. A year or so after the school had bought its first computer, they had a bit of money raised by the PTA to spend, and a meeting to discuss what to spend it on. Dad pushed for a second school computer; it was a heated debate. It was a rare primary school of our size (small village; maybe 450 kids in total at that time) that had two computers in those days. His argument was that tech going forward was only going to become more and more common, and they should give us the best start possible by letting us have early experience. This would have been 82, 83... back when not a lot of kids had a computer at home. The opposition was led by a guy who was a professional journalist, and who insisted that computers were a fad, a waste of money, and they'd be forgotten in a few years' time. Dad won the argument, and the school ended up with two BBC-B computers. In 1986, I moved to a grammar school that had a room with two dozen BBC-B computers, which was hugely flash at the time. In 1993, as I left that school, they had split up those machines around the departments as could find any use for them, as they were so hopelessly out of date that they weren't even saleable. How times move on.

    I remember a decade ago Rupert Murdoch told an industry conference that the newspaper would survive, but it would have to evolve. He was right, of course - we're seeing that evolution as it shifts ever more towards the online freemium model on the one hand, and freesheets on the other.

    I remember the 'death of the cinema' in the eighties at the hands of home video. Thing was, it came back in the 90s. I think we'll still have the cinema (despite the increasing availability of quality 'home cinema' options), but I don't see the studios rushing to sell direct to streamers any time soon. Cinema can still sell an experience; I'm not prepared to pay what it costs to go to the cinema for a single stream at home, no matter how good my own system... I can't be alone in that. I suspect we'll see more 'event' cinema, more immersive experiences, more selling of the communal experience. Already I know with our local independent that it's rare in the industry to turn a profit off the flicks alone - it's the bar, the food, the ephemera that makes the money. Our indy, the Mile End Genesis, is a great little events hub, and I do believe there'll be a market for that. That said, I think also people are becoming more selective about what is worth paying out to see on the big screen; by being prepared to sit in the gods, we've had several nights at the opera in 'the Garden' (Covent Garden Royal Opera House) which were cheaper than a night at the cinema once we added in snacks.
     
  4. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Messages:
    22,406
    Location:
    London, UK
    Back in the early eighties, my dad was treasurer of the PTA in our primary school. A year or so after the school had bought its first computer, they had a bit of money raised by the PTA to spend, and a meeting to discuss what to spend it on. Dad pushed for a second school computer; it was a heated debate. It was a rare primary school of our size (small village; maybe 450 kids in total at that time) that had two computers in those days. His argument was that tech going forward was only going to become more and more common, and they should give us the best start possible by letting us have early experience. This would have been 82, 83... back when not a lot of kids had a computer at home. The opposition was led by a guy who was a professional journalist, and who insisted that computers were a fad, a waste of money, and they'd be forgotten in a few years' time. Dad won the argument, and the school ended up with two BBC-B computers. In 1986, I moved to a grammar school that had a room with two dozen BBC-B computers, which was hugely flash at the time. In 1993, as I left that school, they had split up those machines around the departments as could find any use for them, as they were so hopelessly out of date that they weren't even saleable. How times move on.

    I remember a decade ago Rupert Murdoch told an industry conference that the newspaper would survive, but it would have to evolve. He was right, of course - we're seeing that evolution as it shifts ever more towards the online freemium model on the one hand, and freesheets on the other.

    I remember the 'death of the cinema' in the eighties at the hands of home video. Thing was, it came back in the 90s. I think we'll still have the cinema (despite the increasing availability of quality 'home cinema' options), but I don't see the studios rushing to sell direct to streamers any time soon. Cinema can still sell an experience; I'm not prepared to pay what it costs to go to the cinema for a single stream at home, no matter how good my own system... I can't be alone in that. I suspect we'll see more 'event' cinema, more immersive experiences, more selling of the communal experience. Already I know with our local independent that it's rare in the industry to turn a profit off the flicks alone - it's the bar, the food, the ephemera that makes the money. Our indy, the Mile End Genesis, is a great little events hub, and I do believe there'll be a market for that. That said, I think also people are becoming more selective about what is worth paying out to see on the big screen; by being prepared to sit in the gods, we've had several nights at the opera in 'the Garden' (Covent Garden Royal Opera House) which were cheaper than a night at the cinema once we added in snacks.
     
  5. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    9,309
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    ^^^^^
    As we have undoubtedly discussed in one thread or another, the going-out-to-the-movies experience still appeals to many. There’s just something special about taking in a picture show in a large darkened room with several other folks that you just don’t get at home, no matter the size and clarity of the flatscreen. And it’s far easier to accept a first-date invitation to the movies than to agree to spend a couple-three hours in some person’s apartment, where he might also wish to show you his etchings.

    It’s generally a more immersive experience to see a movie in the theater, where it isn’t interrupted by ringing telephones and barking dogs and teenagers lying about their plans with their friends. So there’s that.

    But all that aside, it appears the trend is away from the movie theater and toward the home “theater.” More and more first-run movies are being simultaneously released in theaters and on streaming services. The pandemic has just accelerated the practice. And the equipment keeps getting better and better. And lower in price.

    Not so the cost of content, though. I’m almost embarrassed to say what I pay Comcast every month. I rationalize it by noting that the “package” includes, besides the premium channels (which is a selling point for my short-term rental in the basement), Internet service (truly a necessity these days, for me and the renters) and a phone line, which I’ve dialed out on maybe three times in three years. But that red phone hanging on the kitchen wall looks pretty cool. (I give out the number to no one, and I’ve silenced the ringer so as to be spared the robocalls.)
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
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  6. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    An interesting experience I've had in the last few months is that of people coming up to me on the street and in the store, and *pleading* for the theatre to reopen. Most of these people are people of means, who certainly have access to all the streaming they can handle -- and it isn't enough. Going out to a movie isn't just about seeing a movie -- especially in a town like this where, if you don't drink, there is essentially nothing to do after dark. People are desperate to get out of their houses, away from their kids, and back out into a social setting -- and the movie or show itself is irrelevant. Judging from the attitude these folks show whenever I run into them, when we finally do get the go ahead to reopen, we could throw a test pattern on the screen and people would pay to come see it.

    Streaming is all right if all you want to do is see something and be able to say you've seen it. But it's also socially sterile -- and after a year of compulsory social sterility, I have a feeling that box office for every kind of theatrical entertainment is going to take a big bump over 2019 levels once the doors reopen. You don't appreciate what you've got till you don't have it anymore.
     
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  7. MisterCairo

    MisterCairo I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
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    Show you his "etchings"? Is that what the kids call it these days?!
     
  8. dlite90

    dlite90 Familiar Face

    Messages:
    88
    One contributing factor to killing cinemas in USA was that, for a long time, they couldn't sell alcohol and they didn't sell real food.
    I've been to a few niche cinemas in the last few years which sold beer, though. The one in downtown Brooklyn has a full bar and restaurant menu and they bring out the food.
    I think some department stores could survive post-COVID if they located in downtown cores near all the nice apartments/condos. But in general I'd put my money on local retail, which is more adaptable.
    Walking/biking to a neighborhood store is still faster and more convenient than ordering online.
     
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  9. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    We have an alcohol license at our place, but found that we couldn't justify selling beer & wine during movies -- the cost of having someone there to sell it usually outweighed the number of people buying it, and we couldn't make a profit on it. Then too, there were a couple of customers who tended to ruin it for everyone else by having too many and becoming loud and disruptive.

    We still sell during live shows, unless the talent specifies otherwise -- some acts don't like to have drinking during performances because they feel people pay more attention to the drinking than they do to the show. I've also had to take steps to ensure that no high-alcohol-content beer is sold, because people tend to get out of control very quickly, especially at certain types (country and "bar bands" mostly) of shows.
     
  10. Trenchfriend

    Trenchfriend

    Messages:
    10,037
    Location:
    Germany
    One pro point on the last german department store company is the classic watch service. As far as I can say, it seems to go well. I often saw people of every age on the watch service point. And especially our growing army of retirees know the comforting fact, that there's a central point in the city for their watches. But of course, there are not much competing watchmakers in the big cities, too.
    We got no watchmaker in our smalltown and not more in our neighbor smalltown since 2019. I collect all my service needing watches and next time, I carry them all to department store.
     
  11. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,575
    Location:
    Australia
    It's interesting this one. As a young person I would insist on seeing all things at the cinema. Sometimes many times over. But I go to a cinema probably once every 10 years these days. I actively avoid the cinema to be honest. I don't like large groups of people and, frankly, I saw movies every week in my twenties and I no longer really have a tase for them. There are not many plots or stories that interest me. I wonder if that's an age thing.
     
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  12. Trenchfriend

    Trenchfriend

    Messages:
    10,037
    Location:
    Germany
    Whatever will come, public credit or not, this situation is clearly the end of Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof, the last dinosaur. Equally, if the will have reopened all there houses, the damage is surely not more to correct.

    Ok, they still got pick-up service and single houses reopened with Covid-rapid-tests (Saxony). But what difference does that?
     
  13. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,808
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    I bought a Chardonnay at Chicago's downtown LaSalle Street train station last nite, spoke with its
    proprietor who is now sole barista behind counter. She contracts the stand rental but is hanging on by
    her fingernails; having let all the kids go and cutting overhead down to the bone. Biz a trickle, profit
    a mere pittance. With advent virtual video, work at home, less need to personally interact, how much
    of all this will revert back after the pandemic passes-if it ever does fully-has yet to be seen. Some of this
    change is inevitable permanent-fixture-cost-cutting for corporate suite staff, so the downtown landscape
    commuter old hustle bustle and rush shuffle ravens nevermore have flown.
     
  14. Bugguy

    Bugguy A-List Customer

    Messages:
    467
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    Most of our seasoned Chicago members will recall the Goldblatts Department Stores, circa 1914+. They were a fixture in just about every Chicago neighborhood. Growing up on the near southwest side (South Lawndale), this is where we bought all my school clothes and just about all our household items (plus Woolworths). Along with the original Sears building in North Lawndale - 1925, that about covers non-Downtown department store shopping in the 50's.

    Great history of the Sears building. It was almost a company town of its own...
    https://chicagology.com/skyscrapers/skyscrapers060/

    My Goldblatts growing up - 26th & Christiana (South Lawndale):

    e32aa8cd025a1994d39b9517f7e3fff9.jpg

    The original Sears merchandise complex - 925 S. Homan (North Lawndale). The green space was really a huge paved parking lot - see following image:

    sears_1-1024x286.jpg

    Sears in the 1950's:

    lossy-page1-300px-thumbnail.tif.jpg
     
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  15. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Sears was the Amazon of its day, especially from the 1890s thru the 1920s, in terms both of public reach and scope of products offered. It was, paradoxically, its move into "brick and mortar stores" in the 1930s, and its eventual transition into what was primarily a real-estate company, that eventually sealed its doom.
     
  16. Trenchfriend

    Trenchfriend

    Messages:
    10,037
    Location:
    Germany
    Didn't they have rail-connection on the complex, there??

    EDIT:
    Steam locomotive, leftside?
     
  17. Bugguy

    Bugguy A-List Customer

    Messages:
    467
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    I wish I could remember. I was pretty young and we usually went after my dad came home from work in the evening. No second car back then.

    Artists rendering of the plan, hence no grass in the real world?
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2021
  18. Bugguy

    Bugguy A-List Customer

    Messages:
    467
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    I toured the Sears Tower before it opened with a friend's dad that was the VP over the project. Quite something. They finally tanked shortly after they moved to the suburbs.

    I'm more amazed with the catalog bungalows they sold - late-20's-30's?? or post-WWII??

    Several generations have missed the fine reading experience of Sears catalogs in the outhouse.
     
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  19. Trenchfriend

    Trenchfriend

    Messages:
    10,037
    Location:
    Germany
    Thanks.
    OK, question answered. :D

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,808
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Broke up with a girl on the top floor. Dumb move on my part. That long elevator ride down was a bitch.

    The Elephant & Castle pub at the Radisson Hotel was the best place for a bust up.
    The pub has relocated near the Board of Trade but haven't had to avail the premises recently. :)
     
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  21. dlite90

    dlite90 Familiar Face

    Messages:
    88
    My brother lives in Illinois, in a town with a lot of Sears catalog homes.
    What's amazing to me is not just the build quality, but their architecture is so much better than the suburban tract houses that sprung up in the 1980s and 90s.
    https://searshomes.org/index.php/2011/04/18/a-fine-sears-home-on-a-champaign-illinois-budget/
     
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