mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The creative destruction of capitalism, or MadAnthony goes shopping...

I went shopping today, to Linens and Things to pick up a $4 AR/AC Black and Decker blender. Showing how effective loss leaders are, I also picked up an $8 clearanced wine rack to put the 3-buck chuck I'm smuggling back from the Westfield Trader Joe's on.

The LNT by my parents is in the Somerset Shopping Center, which is practically around the corner from the 'rents house where I grew up. It was very crowded, and as I made the cross-parking-lot treck to the store, I realized how pretty much every store that is in the mall used to be something else 20 years ago when I was growing up.

The Barnes and Noble used to be a Grand Union grocery store. The Lomanns' used to be Officemax, and before that Sears. The EMS Sports used to be a Strauss Discount Auto. The Linens and Things and a few other stores used to be Epstein's, a local department store with a couple locations. The Gap was a Kids R US, and before that an Acme supermarket. The FYE was a Pergament home improvement store. The Rite Aid was an RX Place, and before that a Woolworth's. There are a bunch of other stores where I can't even remember what was there before.

Most of these changes had more to do with chainwide failures than problems specific to the store - Grand Union went bankrupt, Officemax closed most of it's NJ stores, Sears moved away from small stores without softline departments to large mall stores. And some of the new additions reflect similar changes - the Gap is experimenting with cheaper non-mall stores, and specialty catagory killers like Linens and Things have taken to selling things that you used to buy at mass-merchadisers, creating whole new catagories.

There are a lot more places to buy stuff in Central NJ - another large shopping center, with a grocery store that replaced the two in the Somerset Shopping Center, is just around the traffic circle. Like the stores at Somerset, it's changed names 3 times and corporate parents twice, from Mayfair Foodtown to Edwards to Stop and Shop.

So should I feel a twinge of regret at these changes? Probably not. Indeed, much of these changes were because companies failed to make major changes to keep up with competitors or changes in the markets. I used to be a regular shopper at OfficeMax when I came up here to visit the parents - their customer service usually sucked, but they had great deals. Then they decided to not focus on price competition, got rid of rebates - and last year, while up for Easter, I visited their store closing sale (and later kicked myself for not buying more Pre-N network cards, having been able to flip the five I bought for around $40 profit each).

So capitalism marches on, delivering products closer to what consumers want - and stores change, bringing a touch of nostalgia. I guess 20 years from now I'll be looking at the shopping centers and malls around my new home in White Marsh, and pondering how much has changed since I moved there.


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