Monday, January 19, 2009

Will I miss you when you're gone?

Last December, a friend told me Talbot's would be closing all of its stores. Turned out to be a rumour, but I worried.

When a pair of dependable work pants suddenly shows a shiny seat, where can I get a quick replacement?
I ordered three pairs of pants online, but none fit. That's a familiar gripe: no standard cut, unlike like the revered Banana Republic Jackson-fit pants. I returned to merely tolerating Talbots. Close, for all I care.

A recent article in the New York Times reported Saks had a 20% drop in business over the holiday season, and noted desperately, "and this is when consumers
had to buy somebody something." More closings, of both independent retailers and chains, are forecast for early 2009.

I began to think,
"What stores in my city could I not live without?"

1. Alexia vo
n Beck and Clothes, by Muriel Dombret
Two small, independent designers who make practically every item they sell. (Clothes is in Ot
tawa, but with trunk shows here).

2. Ron White Shoes
I like to try on shoes and not bother with mailing back what doesn't work, and they carry the brands I wear.

Two. That's it.

Otherwise, I can get things online or while traveling. Trekking to a store is less appealing with every passing year. I'd rather pay postage to return a jacket from an online vendor than fight traffic, pay for parking, and return home exhausted.

Occasionally a spin through a high-end department store rekindles the avid joy of my teen years, but mostly it's an endurance contest. Better to try a dress at home with decent lighting, your own accessories, and no sales pressure.

What stores in your town would you absolutely miss, if they closed?


Photo: Popsy Johnstone wearing an Alexia von Beck coat, retrieved from The National Post; photo by Peter J. Thompson

16 comments:

Toby Wollin said...

There are absolutely NO shops in my town that I would miss because we have no independent shops. We have no decent independent fabric stores either so I get all of my sewing supplies over the net. Sad, but true.

Nancy (nanflan) said...

Wow, you are so right on this!

Lately, I've been spending my clothing money at Talbot's and J.Jill, but I don't really have to go to the brick and mortar stores, do I? The internet is easy and I shopped both of these vendors that way before they had a store presence here.

I haven't been in a dept. store in months. They just lack appeal.

Actually, one of my favorite stores is TJ Maxx. My local outlet has a pretty good selection of upmarket items and the staff keeps everything pretty well merchandized. I could afford to shop elsewhere, but I suppose it's at least partially the thrill of the chase.

Deja Pseu said...

Actually, I probably wouldn't miss most of them, as I also do most of my shopping online these days. Most chains have shrunk their Petites section down to a palty corner, so I have better luck online anyway. My days of having a few hours to peruse and browse are probably limited to 3-4 per year. I'd miss Hermès for sure, as it's such a sensual delight to look at and feel the scarves in person. I was in there on Saturday and it's so fabulous having the sales associate spread 4-5 gorgeous scarves out on the counter for my perusal. Probably what I glean most from brick-and-mortar shopping are ideas.

StyleSpy said...

The Neiman Marcus outlet. I'm a fashion whore and a bargain hound and that place scratches both those itches in spades.

Duchesse said...

Toby: I'm curious about where you live, a place with no independent shops.
Nancy: I sometimes use the local Talbot's to view or try the items, then order online b/c even with the postage it's cheaper.
Style Spy: Bad news for retailers when discounters are providing most exciting form of shopping.
Pseu: Oh I forgot about Hermes, shows how I've put it waaay out of mind during this recession. It goes on my list! Will we be seeing a new foulard?

lagatta à montréal said...

In Montréal, some of the small shops on Mont-Royal and St-Denis with locally-produced garments. I bought two identical gored skirts (in a travel-type knit with a lot of body) at one called Genre on Mont-Royal E.

Sadly, Marshalls, an utterly extraordinary fashion and findings shop on Ste-Catherine W. closed several years ago. There are several non-chain fabric stores on St-Hubert, in the so-called "plaza" section (Bellechasse to Jean-Talon) and north of Jean-Talon, but only some have quality fabrics - "Madeleine soies et laines" comes to mind.

I hate shopping online as i'm hard to fit - very busty, small shoulders and back. I really only shop for knits online.

By the way, Duchesse, I looked at Winter Silks and they have the silk broomstick skirt you were seeking as a travel wardrobe item.

Duchesse said...

lagatta: Always loved shopping in Mtl but found over the last 20 years more of these artisanal shops have closed. Or local designers have gonee gone more "club wear". Must check Genre when I am there. Bought that Wintersilks skirt in espresso and shortened it. Still indispensible for warm-weather travel!

CompassRose said...

I'd miss our fantastic indy bookstore. Clothing stores, not so much. Finding anything to fit my funny little shape is such a crapshoot that I have no loyalty to any one maker or shop.

Sadly, that also makes online ordering mostly useless for me, as well. I will NOT buy any clothing unless I've tried it on (or a similar item by the same maker) first. Returning is too much of a hassle. I find shopping online from Canada is pretty lowering anyhow, given that after you factor in the exchange you then have to add in another third of the price for customs and shipping and broker fees...

(I mean, I ordered a bunch of socks and leggings online last fall, and none of the LEGGINGS fit, even though I wear a perfectly good small-to-medium in Hue, and ordered these ones (not Hue) in Large "to be sure". That was US$70 in leggings, all of which were too small - and many of which were shown in the photos on the site worn by women who were much chubbier than I.)

I like clothes, but shopping can be so depressing, particularly when I need a certain item. Really, the only fun kind of shopping is thrifting, in which any good find is like a prize in the box!

WendyB said...

I despise Saks for their stupidity in doing that extreme sale that hammered every small business (because everyone in the world felt entitled to get 75% off anything) and didn't even boost their revenues. Idiots.

Duchesse said...

Compass Rose: Wish more online vendors would give measurements (Eric Bompard), not just size (J Crew), or use the Virtual Model like Lands End provides. And the paperwork to get the tax and duties back is a hassle (deliberate, I think.)

Wendy: I knew knew knew it when they took out those full page ads in the Times. Retail death spiral.

La Belette Rouge said...

The Ann Taylor in my town just closed. I got 4 pairs of jeans and one velvet trouser for $120.00. Great buy but I will miss having it so close by. I have a Talbot's in walking distance. I was hoping a Jcrew might move in but I think due to the economy it is unlikely they will open any new stores.

materfamilias said...

I don't shop online at all, a dinosaur, I guess. (Mostly, knowing my habits well, I know I would end up buying items that don't fit and not returning them quickly enough.)While I don't like shopping when I need something and there are crowds and time limits, I do enjoy the physical aspects of it very much when I do it as an exercise in looking, walking, and, sometimes, socializing (altho' I usually prefer to shop by myself).
I have a fabulous shop in our little city of Nanaimo that I would be bereft without -- Deb knows most of her customers by name after one or two visits; she encourages me to take home and try out garments (without buying them first) yet never pressures me; she calls if she has something she knows I'd like, but isn't pushy at all; the women who work for/with her are great fun and good at tempering their fashion sense with an attentiveness to my personal style; Deb always extends sale discounts to anything I buy within a month or more of the sale itself; AND she pulls out the wine glasses on a Friday 'round closing time and pours a glass for whoever's there!
I also like Aritzia in Vancouver and love looking at Holt Renfrew and drooling in front of Hermes. I cruise Banana Republic regularly to see which items I'll wait for the prices to drop on. And I like Brown's and B2 as well as a great shoe store, Gravity Pope, an independent chain (is that an oxymoron?) that originated in Alberta.
Interesting, I used to be a very loyal Eaton's customer, and I did miss them very much the first time they went under, never got too excited about their restructuring and was resigned when they finally folded for good. Coupled with BC's Woodward's before them, I've already lost my two favourite department stores and couldn't care less about The Bay in its present form (it's over 20 years since I cared about The Bay much, actually). HR is fun to look at, but I can't often afford much there so probably wouldn't miss it much now. The department store's convenience is what I really miss, rather than any one store, I guess -- a place to grab pantyhose, towels, sewing thread, and a sweater for my mom's birthday -- no way can you do that in one trip anymore except at the discount store!

Mardel said...

Oh dear! I do buy online because there aren't that many shops around me, or they are chains and the talls are only available from the online catalog.

As for specific stores in my town there are none. Oh we have a second hand clothing store, and a lumber-yard/home-improvement store that sells carhart and a few other outdoor work clothes like things. But there are towns nearby 10-20 miles with stores, again mostly the chains. My favorite independent women's store scaled back years ago and no longer interests me. I love to shop but have to drive a distance or travel, which makes it a good vacation activity.

There is an excellent jewelry store in the town north of me, Humingbird, which sells contemporary, hand-crafted, and art jewelry as well as some estate pieces. I would be bereft without them even though I wish I could afford to buy more. DH does do much of his gift shopping there so we would both feel the loss.

Duchesse said...

materfamilias: I use the Bay for hosiery and some lingerie, and a few other staples. Ill-maintained but now owned by NRDC Equity, who also own Lord and Taylor (which they turned around) so wonder if they'll resuscitate it. There was a time when the Eaton's flagshop store here sold Kenzo, Sonia Rykiel, Paule Ka etc. I miss that.
Your local boutique: one of those gems that we all wish for!

Belette: Major scoop! But I guess that's b/c AT were closing.

Mardel: When you live in a small town (I grew up in one), online is such a boon (though not in my day), once you sort out your size. Otherwise everyone knows precisely where you bought what you have and is frequently wearing the same thing. I well remember the thrill of travel to a city with choice and new brands.

Julianne said...

There is not very much choice in my city either. I don't really think I would miss any store. I have found some good things at Macy's lately. But we don't really have any nice independent stores. Just chains.

I have to spend hours trying on item after item because I guess I am difficult to fit.

greying pixie said...

Over the past decade I've learned to live without most of my favourite shops, but the one that I and many of my local GFs miss is our local department store, a grand old Edwardian store where I bought my first lipstick several decades ago, my first bedlinen when I got married, my wedding Wedgewood dinner service, most of my dress patterns and fabric, handbags, investment pieces of clothing ... the list is endless. It was my first port of call for most of life's rites of passage and everyday living.

It was such a grand old place with staff who had worked there for years and really knew what they were selling.

It also had a beautiful old English tea room where I used to take my pre-school age children two or three times a week for 'restaurant training'.

But that's enough - the art of graceful living over 50 is not to look back but to take one's standards with one and use them as a basis to embrace the new.