In recent weeks both Macy's and Penny's have announced store closures due to significant decreases in sales and general revenue. The store closures will result in the loss of thousands of jobs and likely have a genuine impact on the local, if not national, economy.
In reading about this I realized that I am a part of this story. I used to shop at Macy's. A lot. And not off the sale rack. Just out of graduate school with my first consulting job I found myself not only with the need for a new, non-graduate student wardrobe, but also with the income to obtain it. So I shopped. I bought business clothes, flirty skirts and floozy shoes. I bought shirts that I new would be out of fashion in six months and pants that I would have to remain abnormally skinny to fit into. I bought four-inch heels and hats and belts and pretty much whatever I wanted. For the first time in my life I had expendable income and I was pretty much just funneling in into department stores.
And then, I ran out of things to buy. I got tired of dressing rooms and muzak and lines and...shopping. It didn't take long, perhaps a year, for me to have caught up, so to speak. My kitchen was finally filled with decent dishes and appliances, I had shoes for every occasion, and I was bored. So I stopped shopping.
When the recession hit and I quit my job to dance and write, I shopped even less. Now I wasn't just bored, I was also poor. I turned to online shopping, snatching up last minute sales and promotions, and returned to vintage and resale stores. I never went back to the mall. It turns out, neither did a lot of people. For the most part I think this is a good sign, an indication of a shifting focus in how we spend our time and money. I worry though, that rather than an indication of social change away from consumerism, it is just a symptom of a massive shift in how we consume. Either way, it is a good reminder to be mindful of our time and money, and how we spend them both.