November 14th, 2014

cocked and loaded


Don't you ever worry about the fact that all the stores with stuff are closing and all that will be left, soon, are clothing boutiques, hair salons, liquor stores, groceries, and restaurants?

Bookstores are more and more threatened by Kindles and other e-readers. Stores that sell movies are going under as Netflix and Apple TV take over. Stores that sell music have pretty much already gone the way of the dinosaur. There are still some toy stores out there, but more and more, it seems that we do the majority of our shopping and ordering online.

We stream our music and our movies. We play online games. We download our books and podcasts.

At the mall nearest me, in Lund, there are 70-some stores. One is a pharmacy, one is a hair salon, one is a florist, one is a tobacco stand. 15 sell cosmetics, shoes, jewelry or eyeglasses. 10 sell food. 7 sell home furnishings, home accessories or electronics.

There is one book store, over half of which is stationery, wrapping paper, office supplies, and greeting cards.

There is one game store, over half of which seems to be advertising posters and game-related merchandise.

There is one frame shop that also sells poster, prints, and greeting cards.

There is one toy store.

There is one store that sells bags, suitcases, backpacks and purses (practical items that you either "wear" or which hold the things you wear).

There is no longer a music/movie store; it closed a couple of years ago.

31 of the stores primarily sell clothing and other wearable articles (and sports equipment, most of which is wearable). If you count in the jewelry, shoe and eyeglass places, which are also wearables, that's over half the stores.

I haven't done the breakdown for Emporia, the big mall in Malmö, which advertises itself as Scandinavia's widest assortment of shops and services, but I'd willing to bet the percentages are similar, if not skewed even more in the direction of clothing.

I miss stuff stores. I miss places where you can go and browse and find staff recommendations and bring home something SOLID that will make you think or feel or learn. Surfing is just not the same.

And I admit freely, I've contributed. I order online more and more. But I feel we've lost some of the sense of discovery, from actually touching and picking up and seeing the reality of the things we buy before we buy them.

I know it's more convenient in lots of ways, but it also seems like one more excuse to never bother leaving the house. One less reason to mingle with real people and possibly talk to them. One more way to isolate ourselves. Apparently, that's what we want: comfort and convenience and a life spent engaging from the safety of our homes (says the blogger). Home delivery. Easy return policies. Recommendations based on algorithms and click-through preferences.

What are we doing to ourselves? At least, most of the time, I can be comforted by the realization that books are still being published. Music is still being written. Games are still being played. Movies are still being made. It's just, hopefully, the delivery and consumption of them that is changing. But I still think we've lost something. And I think it's sad.

And I know this raises a whole 'nother discussion about stuff and materialism and clutter and all that, but still.