No Hold Barred: Shop ’til You Drop!

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Banksy says it all!

What a relief Black Friday bombed this year. After all, who isn’t officially “checked out” and sick of shopping… maybe forever. It seemed okay five years ago when Macy’s and Walmart opened on Thanksgiving Day, but now who really wants to get assaulted anymore over the purchase of a giant screen TV at a 6 AM doorbuster?  

Besides, doesn’t everyone already own an at home “entertainment center” for all their streaming/binging needs?  And forget online – our click fingers now have arthritis. And here’s the bottom line: we have been Black Friday-ed, Cyber Monday-ed, Tuesday-ed, Wednesday-ed, and blow-out Sunday-ed for too long.  If you are still paying full price for anything, you are a jerk!!

Actually, we don’t need any more Black Fridays or Cyber Prime weeks, especially if you already have a Costco near you.  Last summer I bought a steal of a multi-colored Xmas tree during an “Xmas in July” promotion. Sales are now nonstop; no one feels “the art of the deal” anymore. Probably not even Donald Trump. Just like there is no “5 o’clock” traffic all the time – our cities and highways are bumper to bumper round the clock.

The act of shopping should be fun, an adventure,  a treasure hunt of bargains and scoring a “good get.” It is now all work and no play.  But sales are not the retail sport it used to be. We all really DO have everything, and most people use sales to buy an “Extra” Bluetooth speaker or Michael Kors bag because who can resist a low price?  Better we should spend Black Friday dumping out our closets and shelves. We all need a high colonic of possessions. As Andy Warhol once said, “Our closets resemble dairy cases … get rid of any and everything with a year expiration date …” Andy was a major hoarder so he would know. Just because the economy is good, does that mean “Happy Days are here again” and we can all get caught up in the diversion of shopping addiction? Remember the aerobic idea of “shop till you drop.” I’m not sure so many people want to do that anymore.  Especially since the returns are getting higher.

Most people are “tapped out” and taking a “retail rest” of late.  Some are nervous about the potential sideways or downward spiral of the stock market — a few are girding for retirement and as for millennials — but most are still living off their parents and apparently are hardly “big spenders” on anything.  Personally, I simply got old and lost interest so I only splurge for my dogs treats, toys and food, and pajamas are my wardrobe feature.

When I was recently in New York City, a lot of my “fashionista” pals admitted they were worn  out from shopping — especially over the past two years.  They complained that there was nothing new for them and less “occasions” to get dressed up for.  Most of them admitted to “shopping from their own closets.”  And everyone told me they are saving (not dumping at The Real Real) all their classic stuff like original J.Crew cashmere sweaters from 8 years ago and 10-year-old Armani jackets.

I just hope we all don’t end up looking as drab as Elizabeth Warren who believes in 3 different Lands’ End jackets and pants and her gold ball pierced earrings.  But maybe I am being too harsh — perhaps her “Medicare for all” visual of boring practicality will catch on.  Spare us all!

Last week I went to a local mall. “Santa for Selfies” and Sephora had the longest lines. Along with a pop-up store (pop-up retail is supposed to resuscitate all the empty retail storefronts) called “Candytopia” – a kind of Candyland Disney experience. Nothing inspires us anymore, especially with all the brick and mortar stores becoming “experiential” pop-up discos.  Some still have no decent customer service! Why go at all? Not even “free shipping.”  

The last time I was actually excited about shopping and style was twenty years ago when “Sex in the City” taught us about drinking Cosmos and Jimmy Choo shoes and New York was actually the center of the fashion cyclone and NY Fashion Week ruled. Now it is about Keeping Up with the Kardashians (any of them), Instagram accounts, pineapple vaping, wearing $2,000 platform Givenchy sneakers. Shanghai now rules while NYC and NY Fashion Week are completely irrelevant.  Time moves on.

Stores and fashion advertising used to be inspiring and hopeful.  The act of shopping was fun and communal.  Now it is exhausting at best and depressing at worst. This is the time of the year where most stores look like depots of “turn-over” merchandise. Even luxury stores have lost their way and try to create “reason to come in” to sip their champagne and eat hors d’oeuvres.  It doesn’t work.  The thrill is gone.  

As for advertising – so many of the models look binary, and I am sorry (I don’t mind unisex clothing) but models that look neither male nor female do not intrigue me. It saddens me. I am already lost in the current sexual wars and I didn’t want it confusing my shopping habits. I honor that RuPaul is a celebration of style, but non-gender is a downer and so many of the asexual models look so bored and dead in the eyes, why should I care?  Remember the t-shirt that said, “I shop therefore I am?” Long gone!

And don’t think online hasn’t felt the twinge of fatigue.  Many people are over the “click and buy” ka-ching as we drown in our “next day” avalanche of cardboard box deliveries.

Then there is retail’s “last chance Texaco” idea of Rent-a-Runway.  Renting clothes is like speed dating style. In the end it becomes all about the cleaning and shipping (already Rent-a-Runway has had a problem with both issues). I can totally see renting a formal dress for a one-shot wedding or special occasion.

As writer Eugene Rabkin commented in Business of Fashion, “With renting you don’t hold onto anything. The clothes you rent mean little. Nor do you particularly care for them. Rented clothes, at best, make you feel good for a day or two (provided the clothes actually fit you and look as good in real life as they do on the web), but the deeper emotional values are largely lost. There is deep pleasure in ownership — not just the fleeting pleasure of acquisition, but also the lasting pleasure of possession … I say buy less, pay more, and hold onto your garments for longer.”  He is talking about values! Who has those anymore?  Renting is retail porn! And nowadays, what isn’t porn?

In the end, perhaps the most successful retail venture is Disney.  Look at the giant platform they have created. Tons of people love buying into all of it; you can buy Mickey Mouse clothes, furniture, table wear, and even Mickey food (apple juice and popcorn!). You can rent or buy a house all decked out in classic Disney and Star Wars décor while Pluto serves you breakfast.  Settle down in your Disney pajamas and stream Disney+.

Do you get the picture?  This is a full merchandising lifestyle.  And currently Disney is on top of the retail heap with no slump in sight.  Every retail store is trying to create an amusement park experience, but Disney does it best.  Disney doesn’t even care about politics, luxury markets or tariffs.  They are impervious to economic highs and lows.

Where does this lead?  I say, “Mickey Mouse for President!” Only Mickey could be the great global “unifier” who can give us all hope and inspiration, and a decent shopping “experience.”

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