‘Tis the season to be shopping. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Buy your gifts, keep the economy hopping. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Hit the malls, and storm the Internet. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Max your credit cards. Go into big debt. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.
Sorry for creating these cheesy lyrics, but the season of shopping is upon us. This year, Black Friday set a record $6.22 billion in online sales, according to Adobe Analytics, with $2 billion of that coming from sales from smartphones.
Then, “On Cyber Monday … American consumers spent $7.9 billion, making it the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history… (Adobe Analytics),” reported www.forbes.com, in the feature, “Black Friday, Cyber Monday Sales Hit Another High” by Andria Cheng.
Folks are still frequenting brick and mortar stores as well. For instance, over Thanksgiving weekend, “…about 151 million people visited a mall or a shopping center,” cited the Forbes’ article. Admittedly, in-store shoppers have been gradually declining over the years, but this season they were still spending big.
That’s what we do as a nation. We are good at buying countless Christmas gifts, everything from electronics, to Amazon gift cards, to you-name-it, whether online or in a store. www.fortune.com predicts, “And the store chains that have invested heavily to integrate the digital with the physical, companies like Walmart, Target, Macy’s and Kohl’s, stand to be the biggest winners: some 89 million people shopped both online and in stores.”
Convenience is what today’s shopping is all about. A good slogan would be, “Let your fingers do the shopping.” I borrowed this from “the U.S. telephone company’s Yellow Pages slogan, ‘Let your fingers do the walking’ [which] was introduced to the public in 1962,” according to quizclub.com. “But surprisingly, neither the slogan nor the Yellow Pages name and symbol were protected by copyright or federal trademark registration,” added the post. So, it’s a perfectly legal plagiarism.
Anyway, malls are beginning to look like ghost malls with vacant space in all types of retail outlets nationwide. “Bon Ton Stores Inc., (Elder Beerman), Sears Holdings Corp. and J.C. Penney Co. are among big names that have sharply reduced the number of stores in recent years,” according to marketwatch.com.
It’s not all bad news though, since new retail store openings for “grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchants/supercenters and convenience stores” were projected to be statistically higher in number than retail closings in 2018, according to chainstorage.com.
Brick and mortar shopping provides a socialization component. Shopping isn’t simply about inspecting or buying desired items. It’s about spending time with others and enjoying a meal with your shopping excursion.
Alas, things change and technological advances march on, and I admit I enjoy the convenience provided by going online, locating the product I want, and clicking “Buy.” If you do need assistance, sometimes there’s a friendly pop-up offering a live person who wants to “chat” to streamline your transaction.
But at the risk of sounding old and out-of-touch, I also miss the days of customer service. Service with a smile from a courteous clerk armed with product knowledge. Yet as a former small business owner, I understand it’s too costly in today’s retail climate to have help who do nothing but stand around and help a customer decide what product to buy. Employees are too busy stocking, pricing, ordering, straightening, restocking and checking long lines of consumers out. Plus, there are fewer workers than there once were.
Yet some individuals seem unaware the shopping world has changed. Like the elderly grandmother, and I’m talking about nine decades of elderly here, who happened to be in a chain store trying to find shoes for her arthritic feet earlier this year. She asked a young male clerk for assistance. I was sure the twenty-something employee would explain she should help herself, since this occurred in a self-serve discount store.
Instead, he patiently walked up and down the shoe aisles with her, as the slight, silver-haired woman selected a few possible styles. When she sat down on a padded bench, he knelt at her feet and assisted her with trying the shoes on.
Like me, the other women shoppers in the shoe department stopped browsing and gathered round to witness this momentous event. That evening, I was pleasantly surprised to learn both chivalry and customer service might not be totally extinct. The frail lady found a pair of shoes, but she was also the unknowing recipient of a youthful retail worker’s compassion. Now, that’s old-fashioned service with a smile.
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com