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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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Honesty is really the best policy

A couple of times in the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to do the right thing. And I did.

What surprises me is the reaction from the folks at the other end.

I went to the Make It Market in St. Albert a couple of weeks ago and absolutely fell in love with Clutch Jewelry.Image

Mary, who’s the owner/designer/manufacturer/salesperson is lovely and a treat to deal with. In the course of making my purchase, she inadvertently typed in the wrong amount to be billed to my credit card. She shorted herself by $100. I didn’t notice until I got home and immediately emailed her to let her know what happened and find out how I could fix the situation. Her designs and quality are brilliant, and I feel it important to honour her work.

She was surprised, to say the least, that I would contact her to find out how to send her an additional $100. But really, I would hope there are enough decent people in the world who would do the same.

The second incident happened when I filled up with gas this week. I also bought a couple of lottery tickets (hey, ya never know). When the clerk rang through the purchase, she only charged me for the lottery, not the gas. When I pointed out the error, she too was amazed. She said you’d be surprised how many people wouldn’t say anything. Well, that’s just plain stealing.

So I’ve learned a couple of things. Firstly that, apparently, doing the right thing isn’t as common as it should be. And, secondly, we all make mistakes. Someone shouldn’t have to pay for it (literally and figuratively) as a result of your dishonesty.

Do the right thing. And, make someone’s day.