Retail trends mirror socio-economic status

Hermes logomacy's logo Walmart logoSears logo

Today’s retail headlines should give everyone pause.

Sears. Macy’s. JC Penney. These mid-range retailers are closing hundreds stores across the U.S.

Hermes. Walmart. The high and low extremes of retail are booming.

Anyone else see the retail landscape mirror the disappearing middle class? High end stores are thriving as the one percent continue to support luxury brands. Discounters, such as Walmart, are also thriving as struggling families seek out bargains. Mid-range stores are shrinking, right along with the middle class.

Surely someone smarter than me has put 2 and 2 together. Retail is reflecting back the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves. The disappearing middle class is taking with it the mid-range stores they used to frequent.

This is less evident in Canada, although we are at the mercy of U.S. chains with Canadian operations. Sears is particularly at risk, both in Canada and U.S. This former stalwart of affordable merchandise, raised with a prairie sensibility offering a fair product for a fair price, is struggling against extreme polar opposites: deep discounting or lux labels. There’s no middle ground anymore – for people or for fashion.

It seems shoppers are prepared to pay $39.99 for a faux leather, no-name handbag, or $30,000 for an Hermes Birkin. What does this mean for society? Is it sustainable?

Moreover, middle class, where will you shop in this emerging retail landscape?

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