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  • Writer's pictureLinda Cahan

Shopping With Lulu - A Retail Experience By Linda Cahan

I’ve been shopping up a storm lately.

It’s as if I’m personally trying to kick-start the national economy.

Why am I shopping like a crazy lady who just won the lottery?


We all have “stuff” going on in our lives that we have no control over. The only thing we can control is our own behavior – and even that’s questionable.

So we shop.

I have a hard time escaping in department stores. They now can seem overwhelming to an emotionally wrung out woman.

But department stores are what we know, where we ran to for retail therapy as teens.

We grew up in department stores. They were how we learned to shop, how we identified who we were – our external self-image. On Long Island, NY in the 60’s and 70’s – you were either A&S, Lord & Taylor, B. Altman, Bloomingdales or Bonwit Teller.

We go to a department store now and find overfilled chrome racks, glass walls, hard surfaces mixed with nylon carpeting and marble floors.

There’s little softness or comfort in a department store.

What we crave is soft music, a smile, a selection of clothing that fits all body types – not just the cast from “Friends”, a chair or two, a usable bathroom, merchandise that’s priced and (especially) sized.

Show us what works with the odd piece we picked out – so we don’t buy a piece of clothing that becomes an orphan.

Displays that show what works with what and how to use what we’ve bought.

Natural elements – flowers, plants, fresh flowing air, wood, raw metal, earth, water – all there to enhance our connection with our immediate environment.

Why don’t most department stores do these things?

Perhaps because their structures and functions don’t allow for easy changes. The bureaucratic growth of the buyers and administrative functions have choked the store managers ability to allocate space appropriately.

There are turf wars over inches.

Vendors insist that a store take merchandise they don’t want or need to get the prized pieces they desire.

Store planners and designers are hampered by budgets and buyers demands that negate anything other than chrome racks.

What we crave is simplicity, cleanliness, a honed selection, and an enjoyable experience.

We’ll go back to the department stores of our youth when the sales peoples’ anxiety levels chill and we can find clothing that is different, interesting, or better than that in specialty stores.

Until then, the boomers – who are doing retail therapy in droves – will be spending a lot of their income in smaller stores that stroke them a bit.

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