This year, Macy’s, hhgregg, Kmart, Sears, CVS, and many other major stores have announced they will be closing hundreds of stores and laying off thousands of people. These are stores that millions of people have relied on for their shopping needs, thousands of people have relied on for jobs, small businesses like custom sign shops and display companies have relied on for revenue, and commercial real estate owners have relied on for income. Now, all within a year’s time, they are closing.
Of course, this is news many of us may have seen coming. With the rise of online shopping, thriftier shopping and changes in what people are spending their money on — this all makes sense.
This all has me thinking all over the place and asking lots of questions:
- Where are the retail workers going to go? I am including the sales teams, managers, cleaners, maintenance workers, builders, engineers who build these stores, and so on…
- Who can the commercial real estate owners lease to now? Their rent may need to be lowered, but are their taxes going to be lowered as well?
- How will small businesses that supplied these retail business replace their revenue? For example, sign companies — they create thousands of signs each year for one retail store – sales signs, standing signs, banners, channel letters, and so on. This is a lot of revenue lost. How are they going to be able to fulfill their revenue requirements to keep their employees paid?
- Are these money hungry retailers getting what they deserved for putting so many family run businesses out of commission and for not paying fair wages?
- The often labeled greedy CEOs and higher management made a lot of money while they paid low wages to thousands of employees that desperately needed income. Are they going to do anything to help transition their dedicated employees to others jobs?
I grew up in the Pocono Mountains where there were hundreds of family run businesses all over the place. Little by little, I witnessed these businesses, that were community based and loved, being replaced by these big chain stores. It made me sad. But, then I get thinking even deeper…
Big changes like this can happen only if there are enough people participating. Therefore, this means that more people seemed to have preferred these big stores over the little mom and pops. But, why? We all yearn for connection and we all enjoy knowing that we are helping others. Yet, we abandoned the mom and pops that fulfilled both of those needs. What happened? Greed? Selfishness? Ego? I assume those those things and more.
With the powerful influence of marketing, people are swayed with manipulation. Marketers have learned how to make the consumer feel small. This in turn has made the consumer feel like he or she needs to fill a void. Whether its having more stuff, being more pretty, being more cool, being better than anyone else, or some other way of making us feel like we need more to be happy. The Surface Society I call it.
I argue with my boyfriend who adores big corporations. He actually thinks it’s wonderful. He loves the sexy model, the photoshopping, and they influence him to buy more. He grew up being brainwashed that it’s acceptable and it’s the way it should be. Practically all of my gifts were bought because one of his favorite models were paid to advertise it. (So, obviously that type of marketing works – yes its good for the companies, but I don’t believe it’s healthy for society.) He thinks it’s the way the world improves. More stores. More shopping, More jobs. More money being circulated. It’s all about work. If you know me, you know we definitely argue over this. If people were paid fair wages, ads were not playing on insecurities, and we were not shopping purely to impress others and to overcome insecurities, I may agree a bit more. But, what I believe our world needs is more connection — true connection — not power greedy individuals doing their best to manipulate people into buying their goods.
I call what we live in as the “Surface Society”. We are living by the surface only. There is an illusion of connection, which I believe marketers have mastered so well that they have fooled millions of people. The Surface Society is one where we strive to be great on the surface. How we look, how we talk, how we behave, how we appear to others. We focus more on selfies than we do heartsies — okay that one is a bit corny — but you get my point. Selfies are not even who we really are — usually not at all. We have apps for slimming our faces and our bodies, making our boobs look bigger, smoothing our skin and even changing our eye color. Yet, we all go “Oh wow, you look so Gorgeous” when we see these obvious altered photos. This is so surface! This is not truly connecting! This is actually disconnecting.
This Surface Society have created this massive success for these retail stores — which was ultimately created by the marketing teams that have manipulated us to buy into it all. So, if the surface society is what has made these retail stores so successful — why are they closing?
I wish the closing of all of these stores was a sign that this Surface Society was declining. But, it does not appear to be so. The business is just moving somewhere else — that will distance us even more — online — where we buy behind screens and then we share what we bought — online — share our surface. Online marketers have smartly taken advantage of this Surface Society and tapped into it. People are always online — so buy online and we will make it so easy that you don’t even need to leave your house. It’s actually quite brilliant on their part. But, not healthy for humanity.
However, I see these retail stores closing as an opportunity. Perhaps there is room for us to connect more. Perhaps create community centers when people can actually congregate and be together – play games, tell stories, exercise and so on. I did just read a headline today that malls may be renting to churches. I think that’s a step in the right direction. Perhaps, we can get mom and pops again too. I do see individual brands popping up — small boutiques from independent designers. That’s exciting to me. Now, it’s time to support these people.
If the new startups found better ways to advertise than to attempt to lead to false hopes and to use people’s insecurities — I think society as a whole would benefit. I think there is a trend of being more real and connecting that beginning. If they market in such a way, that will actually benefit new companies at the same time as people.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the convenience of Amazon shopping and love looking pretty and dressing up. I do have too many dresses. I enjoy fashion. But, when the complete focus of your life is trying to impress others by being something that you are not — or by only showcasing your looks and your “image” — it’s really hard to connect. What about who you are underneath? What about others that are struggling? We need more balance. Like – yes look great, but also care about others. Yes, make lots of money, but care about others.
There are so many concerns and issues happening in our world right now — suicide rates are up, people are scared, depression is out of control, and I think it’s because of this “Surface Society” we live in. We put more focus on the surface than we do with what is within and than we do with caring for others.
So, where are all of the retail workers going? How are they being helped to find new work? How can business owners like sign shops owners still earn their needed revenue? Anyone know? Are any of the CEO’s paying back in any way for these workers dedicating so many years of their lives so they can be extremely wealthy? Any comments to share. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Perhaps share your thoughts about how to be true to yourself in a society that is obsessed with appearances?
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