I highly recommend checking out this editorial in today’s Boston Globe, written by Jan Whittaker (the author of Service & Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class). It makes for very interesting reading on the week that we’re saying goodbye for good to many of our most beloved regional department store nameplates. Here’s a snippet:
“The stores’ attractions were free and open to all. Of course department stores are businesses that must focus intently on the bottom line, but they built their fortunes on the notion that as their customers prospered and developed more artistically discriminating tastes, they would buy better merchandise and profits would rise accordingly.
By the 1960s, a large US middle class took it for granted that local department stores were reliable links to the mores, manners, and material accoutrements of mainstream American life. But, despite success as social arbiters, the big stores’ high cost of distribution — due in part to special events and lavish services — undermined profits. In city after city they closed or were consolidated in buyouts.
The department store represented a historic confluence of merchandising creativity and social aspirations that may be impossible to replace.”