In the United States right now the retail scene is in turmoil with malls closing and much shopping being done on-line. I thought I would spend a few posts reflecting on my experiences with retail over the last 68 years. I figure that in the first three years of my life I was pretty oblivious about where my food, clothing and other life necessities originated. I only started paying attention when I started nursery school at age 3. At that point Harlow Lennon made a nickel appear from behind my ear and asked how I would spend it. My life as a consumer had begun.
When we moved to Connecticut in 2001 we needed a new mattress. We had been inundated with newspaper and radio ads for a chain called “Sleepys.” “Trust Sleepys for the rest of your life.” Cleverly unforgettable, the slogan lured us to the nearest outlet, one of many. We picked out a set, had it delivered and went to sleep. But a few years ago, Mattress Firm bought out Sleepys, changing the signs on all the stores to Mattress Firm. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to tell them that while they may have meant the name to signal that they were a firm that sold mattresses, what stuck in one’s mind was the word “firm.” Firm does not sound nearly as inviting as sleepy. Their business tanked and they have entered bankruptcy.
But taking no responsibility for the name change, they blame on-line mattress sales for their financial woes. They add, in contrast to their first culprit, that “people aren’t going to buy a mattress any more; they want an experience.” Now it is hard to imagine what kind of G-rated experience they are suggesting would invite a buyer into their store. But it was the last comment that intrigued me, and I will spend the next few posts thinking about the experiences I have had in retail over the years. I hope that those readers my age will remember and that younger readers will be mystified about how much things have changed and how much has remained the same.