Recently I read an interesting post from one of my favorite style bloggers, Suzanne Carillo, on the demise of brick and mortar retail shopping. This got me to thinking about the thousands of department stores that have gone out of business in the last 10 to 15 years.. We all know online shopping has something to do with it. But that’s only one of many reasons. Beside the rise of ecommerce, I believe, in trying to compete on price with the discount chains, many department stores have sacrificed everything that used to make shopping fun. It’s just a race to the bottom. Writers in this Fortune Magazine article explain many of the reasons for the downward spiral of departments stores, one of them they refer to as “Death by Discount.”
Stores are now just racks upon racks of clothing as far as the eye can see, all jammed together, bland decor , harsh lighting, horrible music and too many choices of nothing special. When you’re working on slim margins you don’t spend money on creating ambiance and paying for good customer service people.
For discount shopping there are plenty of places to go. So if department stores want to survive in the new retail marketplace they perhaps need to move forward by looking back as a way to differentiate themselves. Back when they provided a destination that went beyond just shopping. Customer service was extremely important, but so was ensuring customers were entertained and had places to interact socially. They need to figure out a way to make in store shopping exciting again.
Here’s trip down retail memory lane for a look at what shopping in department stores used to be like.
Dress salon-Bamberger’s, Newwark NJ 1940
Interior design was beautiful. The look was streamlined and elegant.
Many stores had tea rooms, restaurants and hair salons. They put on fashions shows and concerts. In the 1950s Jordan Marsh in Miami had it’s own swimming pool and in the 1930s Saks 5th Ave. in New York City actually had an indoor ski slope complete with Scandinavian instructors offering lessons!
If you’re of a certain age you’ll probably remember that a day of shopping with your family at a big city department store was a huge deal. You dressed in your best clothing, as it was a special event.
I’ll never forget the time my Dad flew to New York City on business and took me with him. And after his meeting was over he took me to Macy’s and bought me a dress. It was one of the most exciting days of my young life. Macy’s was such a grand store back in the day. It’s sad to see how mediocre many of their stores have become.
Loving the mod decor in this store.
I like the maxis, especially the leopard number. But I’ll pass on those hairstyles!
Back in the day ladies could actually sit in the department store dress salon while models showed them clothes that they could have made for them.
Now I’m not suggesting that department stores will prosper if they only follow the retailing methods of a bygone era. But I’d like to think combining modern technology with what made things work in the past might create a whole new shopping experience. I hope the remaining ones succeed. Not only to save jobs, but to make shopping fun again!
From another Forbes article titled “Secret of Retail Success? Give shoppers more things to do, not more things to buy.” market researcher, Pamela Danzinger explained it perfectly.
“Retailers need to think way outside the store box to make their stores interactive and in so doing create a real experience for the customers to engage in. These core ideas – High Touch, Story Telling and Community – are key to doing that. Unfortunately too many retailers are wedded to the concept that the answers to retail stagnation lies in more data and new algorithms. Instead they need to imagine the kind of experiences people want that make them feel engaged, surprised, invigorated, and rewarded. Otherwise, retailers will be stuck in storehouses filled with stuff, but empty of shoppers.”
So what kinds of changes would make you enjoy department store shopping again? Do you have a favorite department store you used to love shop in that is no longer in business?
Till next time……