. . .when they see your fabulous displays?
Retailing legend Stanley Marcus didn’t exactly put it this way in his Dallas Morning News column — part of a collection published in 1995 — but he did write that many retailers believe the myth that customers enjoy shopping.
Marcus — namesake of venerable retailer Neiman-Marcus — said he suspected this idea gained credence in the early part of the century when women had more leisure than they do today and when stores “were filled with a constant flow of new wonders.”
Upper–and middle-class women, Marcus observed, were not involved in PTAs, symphony leagues, charity balls. “So what was better entertainment for an afternoon than going to town with the girls and seeing the latest fashion arrivals?”
Today, Marcus noted, women are either working or committed to many activities that consume their spare time. “There are many retailers who still believe that their customers like to shop. I suspect they have talked without listening. As far as I’m concerned, this is a myth whose time has come to be interred.”
Marcus pointed out that department stores of years ago had many more departments. Today, instead, the tendency of retailers, including specialty stores, has been to replace marginal profit producers with specialized apparel operations that can be counted on for greater profitability per square foot.
While a rational approach, Marcus said, this solution ignores the side effect of becoming less interesting for the customer. Sterility creates boredom.
Marcus concluded by saying he didn’t think the danger of boredom was an exaggeration.
In an inimitable style that I had the honor of glimpsing up close during an interview with Mr. Marcus, he closed out this particular column with the following paragraph:
“Sometime ago in a speech, I commented that I was fully expectant of a newspaper headline that would appear someday that would read: ‘Prominent socialite found dead in shopper center. Authorities claim she was bored to death.'”
Excerpt from a column reprinted in the book, The Viewpoints of Stanley Marcus A Ten-Year Perspective, University of North Texas Press.