Thursday, November 28, 2013

Danse Macabre

I had an occasion Thanksgiving last to mark this occasion with an advertisement from Kohl’s. The ad was printed on the plastic sleeve that brought our Thursday edition of the Detroit News. That edition  has been, and remains to this day, by far the thickest, a kind of desperate package of retailer anxiety. Well, it has happened again. Herewith a picture of the 2013 Kohl’s ad:


Nothing like maintaining a tradition, don’t you know. The main difference between the 2012 and the 2013 ad? In 2012 Kohl’s doors opened at midnight on Thanksgiving; this year they will open four hours earlier.

Now I’m only singling out Kohl’s here because of its prominent self-display, for the second Thanksgiving running, looking much the same. But the rest of the paper this year, like last, shows the hysterical anxieties of the retail sector . Paging through the paper today, a single thought, in German at that, rose up in my mind: Totentanz—the Dance of the Dead; the French version produces the nicest headline.

Let us see now. This is the fourth year of our so-called recovery. By recovery our retail sector probably imagines the return of frantic shopping growing at more and more intense rates every year. The public, instead, is holding back. The Spirit of Consumption seems to have fled permanently. To be sure retail sales grew—in 2010, more in 2011, and more again in 2012; the growth, however has been sluggish. The flavor, smell, and rhythm of this growth has not been right, somehow. Is a really big change underway? Is the world recovering from many decades of madness? If so, very major changes in retailing are indeed unfolding in slow motion still and the hysterical danse macabre is thereby explained.

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