Retail trends

by Grace aka costofcollege

When I think of my shopping habits 30, 20, or even five years ago I am astounded at how the retail landscape has changed.  And more changes are in store.  (Pun intended.)

Here are a few random stories that touch on different retail trends.

Sears Transformed America. It Deserves to Die With Dignity.

Amazon and Walmart are in an all-out price war that is terrifying America’s biggest brands

Costco’s biggest mistake in 2016

Now’s the Time for Big-Box Stores to Embrace the 19th Century

For retailers and their landlords, the future lies in giving customers a place to socialize and learn. Spending time with friends, meeting new people, and acquiring hands-on skills aren’t as enjoyable online. The challenge today is to recreate the old excitement for a new era, selling not exotic merchandise and unfamiliar culture but the pleasures of human contact and physical presence.

Death of the Shoe Salesman, Finally

Payless is reportedly filing for bankruptcy.  And what’s the future for shopping malls?

Mall Closures Ripple Through Small Town America

Mall Owners Rush to Get Out of the Mall Business
Surge in store closures prompts some shopping-center owners to walk away from troubled locations

What are some important retail changes you have seen? Malls, clothing, shoes, homes, cars, appliances, groceries, and travel have all been affected.  What are the upsides and downsides?  What changes do you expect within the next five years and beyond?


191 thoughts on “Retail trends

  1. A relative used to be in charge of a big box store’s catalogue shipments/deliveries/customer service department. He survived round after round of layoffs, getting pushed down the corporate ladder, and finally took an early retirement package. Never go into retail.

  2. CFO Richard Galanti knows this is a conundrum. In an earnings call earlier this year, he said, “Everybody in the world never wanting to leave their house and only typing stuff to order and get it at the front door” is a growing concern for the company. But Galanti still believes the company’s biggest strength is its store-based model, adding, “We want to do everything possible to get them in the store and not just come and pick something up.” Costco benefits in part from the “treasure hunt” model, where customers pick up unique items that are temporarily available as they go through the aisles, and the retailer is afraid of losing out on those sales with a program like in-store pick-up.

    The Costco CFO reminds me of an old Blockbuster executive reluctant to abandon late fees as it represented so much revenue. Impulse buys are all well and good but if customers don’t want to go to the store anymore, that’s just the way it is.

  3. I’m also wondering if there could be a retail death spiral. As more and more stuff is ordered online it’s getting to the point that Fedex/UPS/USPS are making package deliveries to everyone every day anyway. At that point does it no longer make sense to maintain physical stores? Do the economics support keeping a store open with all the overhead added into the price, when delivery can offer lower prices.

  4. Amazon Prime Now kind of blows my mind. Especially when the delivery guy pulls up in a Honda Fit and brings my stuff to my door. How is this a sustainable model?

  5. How is this a sustainable model?

    What’s the cost vs. building/leasing, staffing and providing sufficient inventory to a big box store?

  6. On the other hand, I had a conversation this morning with the bus stop mons about shopping for kids clothes, something I started doing exclusively online back when my first kid was born. But I was the only one – the other 4 moms said they rarely shop online.

  7. I am not sure. But in this model, they need a big warehouse, inventory and staff to fulfill the orders and drive everything around. I wonder how constant it is compared to a grocery store. I use it much more sporadically (in time) and randomly (in what I buy).

  8. I think some of these stores and their employees are creating an atmosphere that is negative, and it doesn’t make me want to return and shop there again. For example, I really like Target and I shop in the stores and online. I love Target’s generous return policy, but I’ve noticed that they have fewer checkout registers open in every store I visit now. If the lines are long, I am not going to return if I just see a lot of empty registers and long lines. Target is stupid because I am the type of customer that used to walk in there to buy one thing, and would fill a cart with stuff that I never knew that I needed to buy. If I only shop online, I am not going to buy stuff that I don’t need.

    We have a local family owned grocery chain that is slowly expanding in the county. Their prices are higher, but there are rarely lines. They will special order products, walk you to the item when you ask where something is located, and they even make the experience easy on a day before a holiday or blizzard. Every employee tries to be helpful and the overall experience is great. They donate a percent of their sales to all of the local school districts. I go to this store all of the time, and I am happy to spend the extra money because there is rarely any stress involved.

    I want brick and mortar stores to survive. There are plenty of times when I need an actual store instead of waiting for a delivery. I need them when DD needs a book for the next day, when she needs art supplies for homework on the same day, when she needs a certain pair of jeans for a concert that night etc. I shop local retail and online. The prices are generally better online, but the personal advice that I receive in stores is sometimes worth the extra cost when they save me money in the long run because they can share personal experiences about why something works/doesn’t work.

  9. This makes me sad. I love to shop at physical stores. I can understand shopping online for groceries etc., but how do you shop online for clothes and shoes or even furniture? I have loved something online and it often looks just ok IRL. Not to mention fit etc.
    I also worry about the common person loosing out on a job category all together. These retail jobs are not being replaced by another job. A job in a wearhouse in middle of nowhere is not the same as working in your neighborhood retail store. Where are young kids going to get their first job? I feel that this trend is very shortsighted- and will add to a depressed economy.
    For my part, I avoid shopping online as much as possible. So many stores in our suburbs are closing.

  10. We had to go to Modells on Sunday to get soccer cleats. What a painful experience, mostly due to the surly employees. We found a couple of pairs that DD liked, and needed to get the shoes in her size. After waiting for 20 minutes for anyone, someone, to come by, we managed to snag a salescritter before any of the other waiting people got him. We showed him the shoes and said the size. He stared at the floor, and mumbled something. I think it sounded like he had to go find them, Then, still staring at the floor, he kind of half pointed across the room and mumbled again. We asked him to repeat, at which point he glowered at said OVER THERE, jabbing his finger across the room. It turned out that he had to go find one pair of shoes, but the other was in a sale bin.

    So then we had the joy of rooting through the sale bin, trying to find her size. We founf one size up, which she tried but they were too big. Lucklilly when the employee showed back up (after being hijacked by several other families) the shoes he brought did fit.

    Next time, we need to plan ahead so we can get the shoes online instead of one hour before the first game.

    My other complaint about stores like Modells is that they may look large, but the mechandise is limited and frequently strewn about the floor so you can’t find anything.

  11. Obviously, things like small hardware stores are doomed. But for a lot of other retail, or just what you might term general commercial development, they’re only growing.

    Mooshi’s friends are more typical than we realize. People like my mom have this insatiable need to just be “out.” I’m constantly astounded at the traffic around the major retail areas near us. It just doesn’t stop, ever. Hordes and hordes of middle class people just have to get to Target. And what’s more, some people are coming from far away (30, 40 miles) to get there. When gas was expensive, there was a noticeable decline in this general Saturday afternoon traffic. At $2/gallon, it’s gridlocked.

    DW has been collecting donations for the class bingo basket. People don’t want the option of even just donating $5 or $10 or $20. They truly would rather be out at Target fighting traffic and picking something out from the store. It’s the same reason why so many restaurants are intentionally designed to be loud — people want to be where the action is.

  12. I think one part of the retail sector is thriving – specialized high end stores. Chains like Sur Le Table and REI that offer customer experiences (cooking classes, canoeing classes, etc) as well as myriad non chain stores. And specialized food stores. Hmart is opening stores all over. They do the “experience shopping” with tons of samples and an Asian food court.

  13. I never can find anything at Dicks. We used to do Sports Authority and really preferred it but they went under.

  14. Interesting that you mention Dick’s, which is located next door to REI. When I was recently shopping for shoes, Dick’s service was ok but REI service was outstanding. They carry some of the same merchandise, or at least some of the same type of stuff.

  15. I don’t love Amazon as much I used to just a few years ago.

    Their definition of 2 day shipping can vary even on the same order. Since I am paying for Prime, I don’t expect an item that is labeled as Prime to be delivered a week later. In my area, Amazon id completely dependent on the local post office. They did not deliver ANY mail or packages after the snow storm. We didn’t even get a lot of snow, but our packages and all of my neighbors were marked as unable to be delivered. Amazon is only as good as their delivery system, and the USPS is not the best. I love when they leave my Amazon packages in the rain too.

    Another annoying Amazon thing is price. I ordered two sizes of the exact same sandal for my DD. Same shoe, and it says that it is shipping from Amazon – not a third party. One size is $30, and the other is $65. I hate stuff like that – and it happens a lot.

  16. the real sports shopping fun will happen if DD gets more involved with fencing, which she shows every sign of doing. Places like Dicks or Modells don’t do fencing gear.

  17. I haven’t had bad luck with Amazon. I don’t think they are using USPS though. At least, the boxes aren’t coming at normal USPS delivery times. And we have a covered porch so rain isn’t an issue. My biggest problem is with companies that use FedEx, because with certain items, they insist someone be home to get the box, and if you aren’t there, they take the box to a central facility some distance away and you have to drive there to get it.

  18. One thing you have to be careful with Amzaon over, though, is nonprime items. Some of those items are from Chinese companies, and they get shipped from China, which can take FOREVER. I now forbid my kids from putting nonprime items on their wish lists. We are still waiting on a frog purse for DD which may get delivered this week – 5 weeks after the order was placed. To be fair, that was the estimated ship time when it got ordered.

  19. I don’t know if there will be dual trends, the death spiral of some physical stores as Rhett mentioned and the growth of shoppers wanting to go “where the action is”. The quote in the OP is this:

    For retailers and their landlords, the future lies in giving customers a place to socialize and learn. Spending time with friends, meeting new people, and acquiring hands-on skills aren’t as enjoyable online. The challenge today is to recreate the old excitement for a new era, selling not exotic merchandise and unfamiliar culture but the pleasures of human contact and physical presence.

  20. CoC, I think your quote is spot-on. This is why REI is doing well but Sears isn’t.

  21. I have also had continued good experience with Amazon shipping, but maybe it’s partly dependent on local delivery providers and conditions.

    And I’m actually been amazed at how quickly I’ve gotten some merchandise from China, both from eBay and from Amazon.

  22. Hardware stores provide a counterpoint. I still have fond memories of the one I frequented in Lexington.
    We all know the requiem for retail in the 21st century. The big-box megastores killed off the mom-and-pops. Amazon and e-commerce crushed brick-and-mortar. By the time the Great Recession hit, traditional retail was already toast — and the drop in consumer spending that came with the crisis burned it to a crisp.

    Amid the general doom and gloom, though, there’s a particular industry segment that stands apart. Independent home-improvement retailers — a broad class that includes more than 35,000 hardware stores, lumberyards, garden supply centers and paint shops that make up 50 percent of the market — didn’t just survive the category-killing, market-disrupting, store-shuttering trio of challenges. By customizing product offerings to local needs and personalizing customer service, these plucky retailers are solidifying their status as a crucial component of a healthy Main Street economy.

    Every year, Deloitte releases what it calls the Retail Volatility Index, which measures how much market share businesses gain and lose in key retail segments, including hardware. In its 2016 report, Deloitte noted the emergence of a conventional-wisdom-busting trend. After a century of consolidation and concentration in retail, “smaller, more nimble players are stealing share from larger, more traditional, at-scale retailers.”

  23. God will I be glad to see the end of the shoe salesman. I avoid buying shoes at places like Macys because of that whole set up!

  24. how do you shop online for clothes and shoes…

    How do you shop in a store? Just the other day I went to Patagonia to buy a jacket. Looking through the racks they only have XS and XXL*. Do you have this in a Large? Let me check……………. No, but we can order it for you. That’s fine I can just order it myself. Then on to buy shoes. Do you have this in a 12? Let me check…… we have an 9 and a 13 but we can order a 12. That’s fine I’ll just order it myself.

    * In the era of big data shouldn’t they have a better idea of how many of each size to make?

  25. We have a family-owned hardware store where I live. It is always busy and seems to do quite well.

  26. We have a great family owned hardware store in our town, which does very well. We know the owner because he and his family go to our church.

    Conversely, in the town mentioned by Saax, my family always went to Lowe’s Lumber. That town has been big-box-store-land for as long as I can remember

  27. Rhett, that is exactly my experience. Plus, in this area, the big box stores never have enough staff, so not only is everything out of stock, but everything is all over the floor, or stuffed randomly onto racks or shelves where it doesn’t belong

  28. Food is one of the few things I prefer to buy in a store. I used to get Peapod delivery, but they never showed up on time, and I don’t have a schedule that lets me sit waiting for a 2 hour late delivery. Even then, I got produce at the local store, but now I have reverted to my old habits of shopping almost every day. I find it hard to shop for a whole week because everyone’s schedules change so fast

  29. Mooshi, that was the year I was living in the Olmsted-planned neighborhood close to campus, where the hardware store was located.

  30. “Hmart is opening stores all over. They do the “experience shopping” with tons of samples and an Asian food court.”

    My “experience” with Hmart is an insanely packed parking lot filled with people circling at 0.07 mph + checkout lines out the wazoo that add 20 minutes to my shopping trip. Same reason I don’t go to Walmart across the street.

    I will have to read these articles in more detail later, but I think they are onto something. So much of retail has been focused on finding the product niche — making high-end/imported things available to the mass affluent (e.g., Whole Foods), or selling weird collections of stuff at ridiculously low prices (e.g., Costco), or both (e.g., Wegman’s). But that sort of product-based focus cannot possibly compete with internet vendors, who are almost at the point (in some areas) of delivering your order even before you could drive to the store, find it, and bring it home yourself.

    Ergo, the long-term trend has to be more toward the social/”experience” end of things — there has to be something that entices people to want to come/hang out/be around where you are selling stuff. This is, I think, why Starbucks has been so successful; back when they started, there really weren’t any chains where you felt like they wanted you to sit and linger and read the paper or putz on your computer; the only sit-down places were either fancier restaurants or diner-type counters. And these guys go and use valuable floor space on comfy leather chairs and tables? And give away wifi for free? It made no sense by the standard retail metrics of the day. And yet they were clearly offering something that their customers wanted (and it generally wasn’t the coffee/tea — I mean, I personally like it a lot, bit it is also not close to the most awesome stuff ever).

    Fundamentally, people like to be in places where there is stuff to look at, maybe buy, and they can be with other people. I think the malls tried to grab onto this (I still love how many are named “town center,” when they were basically what put the old-fashioned town centers out of business), but they missed the notion that people like to do *other* things, too, like walk around in the nice sunshine and look at trees, or stop in a park and let the kids play or sit on a park bench, or stop and chat with people they meet, or swing by on their way somewhere else without having to navigate a 3,000-acre parking lot. Malls are very efficient for getting shopping done, and the climate control is great in bad weather, but the engineered nature of the experience misses the human bits that you get when places tend to grow up more organically over time. So now that online shopping has rendered both the efficiency and climate control advantages largely irrelevant, the malls (and other stores) need to find other draws that make people want to come there. And playing on the mentality of Milo’s mom and others — realizing that people want somewhere to be out and about, and focusing on the “experience” as a way to make them choose your particular spot — is one way to go about it.

  31. This is, I think, why Starbucks has been so successful; back when they started, there really weren’t any chains where you felt like they wanted you to sit and linger and read the paper or putz on your computer;

    My Starbucks always has crazy lines so I always order via the app and just walk in and pick it up. If you can do that why are there so many people in line? Do they like being in line? Do they think of it as a break from the day? A few minutes to let the mind wander about?

  32. “I used to get Peapod delivery, but they never showed up on time, and I don’t have a schedule that lets me sit waiting for a 2 hour late delivery.”

    Why hasn’t someone produced a stylishly handsome outdoor refrigerator that could accept grocery deliveries?

    On a related note, DW has used Walmart’s curbside grocery delivery several times with success. The person did a fine job selecting produce, even noting that she was careful in picking out certain things. There’s no surcharge, and they don’t even accept tips. Personally, I’d rather just walk around the store myself, since I love Super Walmart and, while inside, I never stop marveling in amazement at just how spectacular it is to behold this incredibly varied collection of foods and goods, all conveniently displayed in one place for inexpensive and easy purchase. It’s a wondrous intersection of so many different paths of human and economic development, and far more impressive, imo, than any museum collection I’ve ever seen.

  33. We Westchesterites have our very own “experience mall” which opened a few years ago on a hilltop overlooking a highway. The place is weirder than weird, but insanely popular. It is basically an open air mall, with lots of big box stores plus small chains, a large movie theater, a Whole Foods, lots of big box style chain restaurants, a large multispecialty medical practice, and a curious fake town center complete with playground, benches and a Haagen Dazs booth. The whole thing is contained on this hilltop, encircled by an access road, parking garages, and a highrise apartment complex. Inside the loop, the streets are all faux Westchester village center, with sidewalks, a fountain, the gathering area with the playground, and BEST OF ALL, piped in mall music outside. The place is just weird. But everyone loves it.

  34. Lauren, if you’re just getting one or two things, you can find better prices through google shop. There are also browser extensions that find better prices than Amazon. I have Honey and one other one that I forget the name of. For clothes, I go to and it shows me what stores have the item at what price. Some things can be ordered directly from Lyst.

  35. I agree with the comments about providing a place to socialize. DH is a retail manager in a local store that also provides an area to use the product. They are always slammed with customers and have consistently been beating sales goals. They do get the occasional person that tries to price match online prices, but the store doesn’t do it. They say that they provide a community and a large space for the customers to interact with each other (for free, except for special events), so they charge MSRP for products.

    I use peapod pickup service, where we have to drive to the store within an hour window and get the groceries. I hate the grocery store, so this is wonderful for me. Other than that, I barely buy anything online.

  36. I guarantee you the REI employee is paid more than the Sears employee. You get what you pay for.

    Mooshi – your Modell’s description fit perfectly the Modell’s, Gap and Target closest to me. Their customer service and selection is awful.

  37. OT: Just back from Dallas. It was a super quick trip but we did spend nearly the whole day at the Perot Science Museum. What a fantastic museum! I’d definitely go back. My son had a great time. Ended up eating BBQ at Hard 8 BBQ. It was exactly what I was hoping for – food, atmosphere, everything.

  38. I have been a big online shopper and early adopter of it. Now almost all my clothes, shoes as well as kids clothes and shoes are bought online. My DD just told me of a speciality tween clothing store that opened so we’ll go check that out. A few local non chain clothing stores have managed to stay in business.
    Here there is stiff competition brewing in the grocery arena. Publix is expanding rapidly.

  39. “Mooshi – your Modell’s description fit perfectly the Modell’s, Gap and Target closest to me. Their customer service and selection is awful.”

    From the way you, Mooshi, and Lauren tend to describe these places (on this and other threads), it generally seems like your versions of these national chains are some of the worst in the country. Is it the real estate prices? The density of shoppers?

  40. REI is successful because the rich are getting richer and can afford to spend $200 on hiking boots and $15 on a pair of socks.

  41. When we were in NYC, DE wanted to use those rental bikes. He was big enough, so we went to a Modells in Manhattan to get him a helmet. There were two or three levels to the store, tightly packed with merchandise. No one waited on us, which gave us the chance to wander around and see how what was on offer might differ from elsewhere. Great for tourists. But probably not so good if you’re just one of the millions who rely on it every day.

  42. Milo – when I go to these places near relatives, they’re fine – clean, organized, OK customer service. I think part of it may be that they have a lock on the area, so little (local/hyper local) competition. If I want something at say Modell’s I can either go online, go to the crappy local store or travel 30-40 min by subway to go to another store. There is no Dick’s near me, Sports Authority went under, or I can try my luck at Macy’s (less close) or pay a lot more at REI (further away).

  43. I am wondering the same thing as Milo.
    Dick’s near us is very good for soccer shoes. They seem to have quite a good selection of products and their staff will help you if you need it.

  44. “If you can do that why are there so many people in line?”

    Similar story – I owed the guy who set up the basketball pool our entry fees. He banks at Chase; I also have a Chase account. I saw their app advertised where you can pay anyone, so I have that on my phone. I text him and ask if he has Chase Easy Pay. He says no, what’s that? why? I tell him and also say never mind I’ll bring it by his house. I guess I’d understand if he were some old guy (even older that I), but he’s my age, has kids younger than mine, and I know he texts, has spotify, etc. Sometimes people really don’t want the app. My DW is much more like that than I am.

  45. Fred – Why can’t you just PayPal it? I have that; I don’t have Chase Easy Pay. I really don’t want yet another thing/app linked to my account.

  46. The big box stores such as Walmart and Home Depot are not the same around here. They’re generally smaller and they’re really crowded.

    Modells has always been bad. Target was fine until the last six months. They built large stores and they were clean and stocked. My only issue is checkout.

    I don’t have the same experience as Mooshi at Dicks. There are two around here. I’ve always been able to find cleats, bats and helmets. There isn’t an abundance of workers, but most try to be helpful.

  47. The issue in this region is high density of population, small stores due to real estate prices, and lack of staff (low unemployment rates?).

    But I haven’t been impressed when I visit my sib in Trumpland and go to the Walmart. There, the issue seems to be the salespeople’s collective lack of IQ and interest.

  48. I suppose Dicks’d be good if you only played one sport. We tend to pick up a couple different things in there at once. I also miss the clothing section in Sports Authority stores. Dick’s has everything divided up by sport, so if you want a pair of shorts, you have to decide what sport they’re for. Of course, soccer shorts work just as well for basketball as gym shorts, and if you’re looking for stuff to mess around in or for gym class and care about the color more than whether you’re buying a shirt for tennis or for running, then it’s a huge pain, because you have to go around to all the little racks for each I dividual sport.

    I use the Ca$h app. I can’t stand that so many companies want you to download their app.

  49. SM – I’ve been in that Modell’s in mid-town…I hated it.

    Wal-Mart is a depends-on-which-one for me. The one actually closest, and at which I have gotten good/excellent customer service over the years is the worst kept up in terms of looks.

    REI might be good, and much better than the competition, but they were better when I first became a member in college.

    Shopping as an “experience” is not my thing but nonetheless DS3 and I have been on our own for the past couple of weeks and, as I’ve mentioned, DW left us well-stocked, so my need to go shopping has been minimal. But this topic got me thinking about which stores I have actually gone into while she’s been away:
    – 2 grocery stores, probably a total of 3 times, just for fresh produce and lunch stuff
    – Home Depot & Lowes. They are interchangeable in my mind and each was the more convenient when I needed to go
    – car wash (into the convenience mart) to buy a newspaper (since I stopped delivery while she’s away)
    – burger place in the mall near my gym on Saturday my dinner, since DS was with friends.
    – I guess you can count the bank because I needed some cash for the housekeeper
    – Best Buy on a whim to check out a new receiver/amp & speakers. Didn’t buy anything.

    Someone, maybe Milo, mentioned the crowds of middle class people at the mall. Well, that was my impression at ~7pm Saturday when I went to get my dinner from the food court. I had to park a lot farther away from the door than I had expected. And the place was full of families, singles, old, young but clearly non-totebag types. (Not our nicest mall which is 15mi away from where I was). I was actually astounded by how many people were there. And this place just had its Macy’s close within the past month.

  50. Milo – I’m good with PayPal…he doesn’t have that. I also have venmo which I use mostly with 1 kid who does not have an account where we do our main banking.

  51. When we were buying a spin bike, we tried what looking at what stores we could, including Dick’s, but it just wasn’t fruitful. I find the sales staff is reasonably helpful for higher-volume things, like field hockey sticks, but not for something like a spin bike. What’s worse, whoever gets detailed to put the things together doesn’t really know what he’s doing and/or doesn’t care, so the display model will likely be a little bit rickety and un-sturdy, which is the whole reason for testing something in person prior to purchase. We ended up buying from Amazon, having made our peace with the solemn warnings from a vocal minority of negative reviewers about bikes damaged in transit (this was true for every bike, regardless of price point) and we were ultimately very pleased with the final, assembled product.

    I typically have no interaction with sales staff at Walmart or Target, save for the cashiers, who are always courteous. I only use Customer Service to exchange Soda Stream canisters, and they’re fine for that. From past discussions, I’ve gotten the sense that some of you expect frequent returns and exchanges as a regular part of personal commerce.

    “There, the issue seems to be the salespeople’s collective lack of IQ and interest.”

    What questions are you posing that you can’t solve with a Google search?

  52. If you know your size from the store, it is easier to order online. I have a brand of dress pants I like. About 3 years ago they made a major change in style of their “basic” pant. I ordered my “standard” size and it did not fit. Thinking it was just mis-marked, I returned it to the store and tried on one of the same size. Nope, tried on several pair to figure out my “new” size. If you just “normally” take a medium, you can order it and it can be too big or small depending on brand and sometimes even with the cut in the same brand. This sometimes leads me to ordering my normal size and one up or down depending on what the reviews say, but then I have the hassle or returning it.

    For some things, and I count furniture in that category, I want to touch it and see it in person. Can look wonderful online, but the fabric may be itchy or too __ or not ____ enough (pick just about any adjective). Though, I could be perfectly fine with checking out the show room, placing the order as I go out the door and having it arrive on my doorstep in the next few days.

    I rarely bought kids clothes online unless I had just purchased the item and was buying another just like it or maybe in a different color. My kids were never “standard”. DD#1 needed clothes “younger” than her age, but DD#2 need them “older” than her age in general. Again, if you stick to one brand and they just outgrew size 2, I might try buying size 3 online. We also frequently shopped the sale rack, which doesn’t seem to appear as much online as in stores.

  53. I have been monitoring retail trends for awhile and I have foreclosed on a lot of dead malls. The mall closest to us is very strong and has some of the highest sales per square foot. It is family-owned and they manage and lease it themselves. They also have an extensive art and sculpture collection that gets rotated through and changes frequently. Saturdays often include performances from local groups and it is constantly busy.

    Sears won’t be a retailer for much longer. I don’t understand how Best Buy survives – 80% of the time I have walked in ready to spend money and walked out because no one will help me. They can’t ever get my husband’s rewards account to pop up even though they send him emails with the account information. How their management has not focused on being better, I have no idea. I have nearly emailed the store manager a number of times – they are literally in the middle of very high end demographics and they are missing the market. It aggravates me.

    I buy from Nordstrom and Zappos online but enjoy shopping at Nordstroms, REI, and Half Price Books.

  54. This place:

    Just opened nearby. It’s exactly a half mile from my front door to its front door. It’s jammed, always. It’s got food and craft beer and boutiques and barber shops and fitness places and a place for the kids to run around and burn energy called “Bounce”. Soon it will have a new branch of Glazed and Confused, “Not Your Father’s Doughnut Shop”, which I was reminded of yesterday by Ada’s comment about opening a doughnut shop. Coffee and free wifi, tons of places to sit.

  55. Milo said “What questions are you posing that you can’t solve with a Google search?”

    In the particular Walmart I am referring to, I only go there once every 2 years or so when visiting the area, so I am talking about questions like “where can I find the shampoo”? Being unable to handle questions like that are what I mean by “low collective IQ”

  56. Oh and a “Zero Market”, for zero waste, where you have to bring your own containers and get your stuff from the bulk bins and bottles. And a fancy chocolatier. And an upscale wine store. And soon it will have a wine bar. And then everyone wonders why parents seem so alcoholic these days. One small warehouse space with two craft beer places, a wine bar, a wine store, and restaurants that all have liquor licenses. All for the pretty pretty Totebaggy moms and dads who hang out and drink while the kids are in Bounce.

  57. ““where can I find the shampoo”? Being unable to handle questions like that are what I mean by “low collective IQ””

    Fair enough…those employees did not distinguish themselves in Calculus.

    That said, can’t you take a quick 360 degree scan of any store in which you find yourself and figure that out on your own? There are groceries at one side, so that ain’t it. Clothes, shoes, housewares, jewelry, cards, crafts are in the vast middle. See those grills on the high shelves? Outdoor and Garden is at the side opposite groceries. All those bikes stacked up high? That’s toys/recreation. HD TVs on the wall? Electronics.

    Ahh, but look, there’s the pharmacy. Getting warmer…

  58. “but how do you shop online for clothes and shoes or even furniture?”

    I can see how this could be a problem. I’m very picky about how my clothes fit, and I’m hard to fit for some items, particularly pants and shoes. So although I buy and return shoes at Zappos, I like the option of trying on stuff at a physical store and ordering online my preferred color or style from that same manufacturer.

    ” but the personal advice that I receive in stores is sometimes worth the extra cost ”

    At the new local Barnes & Noble store I found myself browsing the books but referring to Amazon reviews on my phone for advice. I mostly found that bookstore like a museum, interesting to visit but not where I would do much shopping. I do the vast majority of my reading on ebooks.

    Related to ebooks. One disadvantage is that illustrations cannot be enlarged, at least on my tablet or on my phone. So for example in a book I’m reading now that has informative maps accompanying the text, I am missing out because I can hardly see the details in the tiny (to me) maps. Maybe it’s different in a Kindle, which would make me want to buy one.

  59. I order a lot through Amazon and LLBean, I do appreciate a good shoe store and have never ordered shoes on line, Can’t even think of shopping on line for groceries. I would be okay to order can goods, crackers, pasta on line but I prefer to pick out my own fruits and vegetables, meats and fish. I wouldn’t mind having dairy delivered like it was delivered by your milkman when I was young, but I don’t have that option where I live.

    There are two small hardware stores 7 minutes apart where I live. We also have two Home Depots 10 to 12 minuets. Both of the small hardware stores do well. One is located in a small town and a lot of people prefer to go there instead of driving to the big stores. The other store is walkable for a lot of people but also an easy drive with enough parking while people are doing local errands.

    I don’t want to have my drugs sent by mail. We have a wonderful family owned pharmacy within walking distance, if necessary. They have my records going back to 1977. You can call them for
    information on a drug or an otc drug interaction with your prescription drugs.

  60. I do not shop at Wal-Mart unless there is no other option. Loathe. I try not to shop at Target because I will walk out with double the intended purchases on the way out.

    I love Texas brands HEB and Central Market. I also enjoy the reduced decision-making in a Trader Joes. I get overwhelmed with choices unless it is something like good cheese – I could spend some time working my way through the cheese selection at Central Market!

  61. Target, Walmart and HEB (but not central market), all have phone apps. Put in your location and the app will tell you which aisle it is on or if they even have that specific brand you want.

    I used the HEB one weekly when I did my mom’s shopping. I could scan the bar codes on her items at home, like shampoo, create a shopping list and then when you open the list on your phone at the store, you can see what aisle to find it on. Wonderful time saver when it is a store you don’t go to as often. Plus, I knew exactly what size and kind of each thing that needed replacing.

    I agree, not sure I want someone else to pick out my fresh stuff at the store.

  62. “All for the pretty pretty Totebaggy moms and dads who hang out and drink while the kids are in Bounce.”

    This is freaking brilliant and a decade too late. Every single kid birthday party at Generic Happy Place, as I sat for 90 minutes making desultory conversation with equally-bored moms, all I could think of is “you know what would be an awesome business plan? Add a liquor license and some comfy chairs.” Glad someone else had the same idea and actually did something with it.

    “From past discussions, I’ve gotten the sense that some of you expect frequent returns and exchanges as a regular part of personal commerce.”

    [Shudder] No. Nonononono. Hate returning stuff. Which is also why I do not yet buy clothes online — too particular about fit + intensely dislike returning stuff. I’d rather suck it up and spend an afternoon working through the racks, preferably somewhere where they treat me nicely, like WHBM.

  63. AustinMom – I didn’t know that! See – that is a sign of a retailer who is thinking about their customer experience. We miss HEB so much….was really hoping they would buy the Albertson’s stores here. Albertson’s is so gross but they are owned by a jerky hedge fund that has no clue how to deliver a good customer experience. I would only buy things that came pre-packaged from the factory there. Nothing “fresh”.

  64. You pronounce each letter.

    MBT: Thank you for recommending HEB to me. I love it!

  65. we have a “Employee owned” grocery store in our area. It is the size of walmart , but only for groceries. I hate grocery shopping ever since we started shopping there. It just takes too long to go around for things we need. I try to send DH there or we split our list to get out of there quickly.

    Its the closest, so we keep going there, but wish there was a WF or another smaller grovery store nearby.

  66. “How that pronounced? Like the racial slur?”

    Back when i lived in Texas the “Yankees” who had moved down south would smirk and ask the same questions. Dumb Texans like me had no idea what they were talking about. Kinda like the word “thug” today; we didn’t know it was a slur.

  67. We have some nice shopping plazas but none that combine Kids play places with a bar scene. If both places would have plenty of customers. Similar to what Lark mentioned the other day I see lots of casual sipping of drinks around my neighborhood. I wouldn’t be surprised if after sipping so much all afternoon, parents were nicely buzzed by 6 pm.

  68. @Fred – I used venmo to pay for my pool, but it was run by a 20-something. The “social media” part of it is weird to me. Why do I care who of my friends is sending money to other friends? It’s weird. I am old. Get off my lawn!

    I wonder how instacart/google express are doing for Whole Foods/Costco. Lately, there are SO many instacart people shopping when I am there. They are easily identifiable by the lanyard & badge that they wear. They don’t use the regular checkout, so it’s nice that they don’t cause additional lines that way.

    I HATE clothes/shoe shopping in person, so I almost exclusively buy online for that, focusing on stores that either have free returns or convenient store returns. I also buy all kinds of other things online – water filters for the fridge was one that I Amazon Primed this week.

    I do not want anyone else picking out my groceries & I want to see/smell/touch and compare in person, myself. I have used peapod a few times in a pinch, and it is okay. But ultimately, I am the type that enjoys going to the store, wants to pick out a specific bunch of bananas that fit my personal specs, pick out specific cuts of meat, check all the experation dates before making a choice, etc. I am very picky that way, and I don’t mind doing the shopping anyway. But shopping for

    Amazon has an absolutely awful model/interface for clothes/shoes shopping. You can’t browse at all, the mechanism for choosing a size/color is goofy, and search doesn’t really work well either. And no decent filters!! On the other hand, I’ll go down the rabbit hole for a long time on the Nordstrom or Zappos apps/websites looking at the things that they suggest, filtering searches that work, etc.

  69. I don’t like our WF because checkout takes forever. They don’t have self checkout and their cashiers are terribly slow as compared to my normal grocery store.

  70. @Dell – Is it the one that doesn’t take credit cards? That place is insane – they have like 50 kinds of bacon (and everything else). I don’t need that much choice. It’s too hard to shop there.

  71. Louise – you see a lot of the malls being “de-malled” to have open air plazas ringed by restaurants. Convert the empty anchor to back office for a healthcare provider or outpost for the community college. Big grassy fields, usually a water play area in moderate climates and often fun programming like movie nights in the summer. Reduce the leasable space, bring in more foot traffic.

  72. HEB (yes a person’s initials, cuz you wouldn’t want to call a store Butt’s) wil also send you mobile coupons, their in app coupons are awful. Target has a cartwheel app that is unfortunately separate, but you can scan your items and get coupons for things on sale. It creates your own barcode to scan at check out.

    HEB used to be more of a regional store than it is now. It didn’t make it too much east of I-35 or north of Austin.

  73. Mom and I recently told my son about the milkman. He somehow found it amazing. Maybe because there isn’t really a way to have a digital replacement.

    I think Home Depot’s app will also tell you the aisle number. I’m not sure because I hate the idea of downloading a new app for each store, so I’d rather flag down an employee for the stuff that doesn’t have an obvious home. Last time I was there, I picked up paint chips for my bench and wanted to get some webbing to make a replacement suspension trainer. My Jungle Gym straps have disappeared. I didn’t know “webbing” was such a strange word idea. It was supposed to be in rope. We eventually figured out that it isn’t carried in stores anymore; so I bought regular rope. Then to find handle pieces. I wandered around in plumbing, where most of the customers looked to be contractors picking up a couple things for the job site. I settled on 4″ “risers”. I’m not sure what they’re supposed to be used for, but with a few square knots, my new $6.02 suspension trainer was ready to toss over the top of the swing.

    I expect Mr HEB’s grade school experiences demonstrated potential problems of giving a store his name.

  74. The Cartwheel app is a PITA, probably by design. It rewards the people who have the time to stand there scanning every item to see if there might be a coupon. Every once in awhile, there is something that is worth it, but usually I feel like I wasted 10 minutes. I am not a huge Target shopper.

  75. Houston, H-E-B is piloting a grocery pickup service. It’s not at my closest location, but I’ve been trying it out. You shop online and select a 30 minute window for pickup. So far it’s been ok, because you can write a note for each item if you want (they have respected my “no mushy grapes”). They have done poorly on expiration dates for a couple of things, but I have been able to schedule my pickup for after work Friday, and was pretty happy to have the grocery shopping off my weekend chores list.

  76. I’m still trying to figure out how Restoration Hardware is still in business, especially with their phone book catalogs and weird membership pricing model. And now I find out they are building some monster standalone 4 story store in the parking lot of the mall about 100 yards from their current, much smaller store.

  77. Louise – I find the WF cashiers to feel like they need make being a cashier a handcrafted, deliberate experience. Slow…

  78. This place has no play area, but it has a lot of buzz. We went there often when it was new & ‘saac had yoga a couple blocks away and were back for the first time in a couple years after a recent doc appt. I can’t believe how packed it was, and I don’t quite get the attraction. They can’t all be waiting for their kid to take a class! It isn’t really a shop, even though they sell a few items. It’s more like the side of that one Panera’s that’s always full of people on laptops, but on overdrive, and Panera’s is like study hall, but this place is LOUD.

  79. Panera’s is like study hall

    Yes, so are the Barnes & Noble cafe areas, Starbucks rare now since it is very crowded.
    I planned to snare a SAT coach by going to B&N near us (don’t laugh). My Mom actually spied the tutors because my parents love to hang out at BN.

  80. S&M – we have a milk man! It took a while to get off the waiting list and assigned to a route. It is quite popular around here.

  81. I love the self check at the grocery – but I hate people who try it with a full cart, on a Sunday oh and their toddler has the “Littlest Shopper” cart. Sunday is not a time to be fooling around in the grocery. Professionals only.

    “If you can do that why are there so many people in line? Do they like being in line? Do they think of it as a break from the day? A few minutes to let the mind wander about?”

    It never ceases to amaze me how long people will wait for Starbucks. Astounding. Frankly I don’t cotton to waiting very long ever to give someone my money. If you want my money you had better have someone or something there to take it from me pretty quickly or I am out. Other people don’t seem to mind much. Astounding! The exception I will make to waiting is if I’m at a store that is known for being cheap, good deals (TJ Maxx or something like that) then I get it, but at Nordstrom – you better hightail it over to me or I’ll get my silk tie elsewhere.

    I’m also astounded by the number of families who just go to the mall as an outing?! What is up with that. It will be a beautiful Saturday and you will see ENTIRE families just strolling through the mall – gumming up traffic, looking at the windows, eating frozen yogurt. I just do not, cannot understand that. Why anyone over the age of 18 would choose to go to the mall to pass time!

    Yikes, my hackles are raised now…..

  82. I also don’t get the people hanging out working on their computer at Starbucks. Have you no home?

  83. Completely off-topic. A couple of days ago, someone posted the link to a story of three teens who were killed in a home invasion, in the context of the word thugs being applied to these white kids. A friend went to the funeral for one of those boys yesterday. She knew him through scouting and said he was just the nicest, most polite kid. She was stunned. That was not the background I was imagining for any of those boys.

  84. We go to one of the malls near us quite a bit especially if the weather isn’t nice. One is never crowded, has some restaurants that my kids like and stores where my husband shops. We can easily kill 3-4 hours with lunch and browsing. With 3 little kids, sometimes it is nice to just kill some of the day!

  85. I’m still trying to figure out how Restoration Hardware is still in business

    They have a giant flagship on Newbury Street in Boston. How? Last time I was in there at the old location it was just a store full of crap.

    I wonder if L, Meme or NoB ever go to the Christmas Tree Shop…

  86. I also don’t get the people hanging out working on their computer at Starbucks. Have you no home?

    Some people get distracted at home: dishes in the sink, shows on DVR, a fluffy bed beckoning to be napped in, etc.

  87. Kate, freshen up the guest room, we’re on our way :D

    I agree with Rhett on working somewhere besides home. But a place as noisy as the one I posted about is more about being seen then having a good work environment.

    MBT, you’re right, middle class white boys are not what that word brings to mind.

  88. We have stopped at a nice mall on a beautiful day. I expected to dash in and then right back out. It was absolutely packed. I have no idea why. It is not an open air mall. It is completely climate controlled, mostly artificial light.

  89. . But a place as noisy as the one I posted about

    Many people work better with noise and hustle bustle vs. being at home or in a quite office.

  90. I despise open-air malls, like the “town center”one MM referenced earlier that is very conveniently located for me and contains retailers I like. However, if it’s raining or even very cold, it’s unpleasant to walk from store to store loaded down with bags. I would probably visit more often if it were enclosed.

    I agree that a change of location away from the house is desired by many of those hanging out at coffee shops.

  91. I just got the proposed new bell schedule. High school start time is 7:15. That’s earlier than this year. Ugh.

  92. “Many people work better with noise and hustle bustle vs. being at home or in a quite office.” I cannot for the life of me understand why one would want to be surrounded by and breathed upon by myriad strangers when one could be peacefully at home. It is weird.

  93. I live between two cities of ~50,000 and our retail options are limited. The stores that do exist tend to have a limited selection (Kohl’s and Famous Footwear) so I find myself ordering online anyway.

    My biggest frustration with retail is seasonality, given how cool our climate is for much of the year. I think a store that sold the children’s clothes you need DURING THE SEASON THAT THEY ARE LOCALLY NEEDED would do really well. The beginning of December is not the time to clearance out the snow pants and 4th of July is not the time to clearance out the shorts.

    Since I buy mostly cool season stuff, I handle this by shopping the week leading up to and including Veteran’s Day, when prices are good but all* sizes are still in stock. 95% of my shopping is online, due to local selection limitations.

    I was driven to Costco for 51 oz cans of clams last week and bought a replacement garden hose and bathmat with the groceries, so I guess I slightly fit the Costco model. My kids rarely shop and the idea of a family outing to a store is foreign.

    I really like the Walmart shop-and-pick-up-in-store model. We have a Walmart Neighborhood market near work now and stuff I order arrives in a week or less. I’ve purchased two bike helmets, some special sippy cups, an electric blanket, Poof soccer balls and two pairs of soccer shoes ($7.88 each!) in the past year. Prices are better than Amazon and shipping is faster than Amazon-without-Prime with no order minimum. I ordered Lands’ End Squall parkas/jackets for the boys for next year on their February clearance and hope those last for 2-3 years before they are outgrown.

    Mr WCE and I rarely shop for clothes. When he needed replacement soccer shoes, he had to go to Eugene. When my rubber boots split at the seam this winter, I ended up getting replacements at Kmart because Target and Walmart were out for the season. They performed adequately this weekend crossing the mudflats at the U-pick oyster place on Netarts Bay, so I guess I’m satisfied.

  94. WCE, i agree – you can’t find a bathing suit in June around here except at the bathing suit shop – They are already carrying sweaters.

    @S&M – 7:15 – that’s horrible. Childhood has gotten so miserable I think. I mean the phones are cool but we’ve ruined everything else. Grade school is midddle school, middle school is high school, high school is college, Little League is the MLB. Glad I grew up when I did.

  95. I always HATED working from home. Would much prefer to work from Starbucks. When I needed to do school work when I was in school, I always did it in the library or somewhere away from home. Sounds like Moxie and I are total opposites!

  96. peacefully at home.

    Which is conducive to relaxing but not necessarily to working.

  97. Saac – 7.15 is way early.
    My principal in the home country was old school and fiercely resisted changing our start time earlier than 10 am.
    She believed that kids shouldn’t be woken up too early.
    When the new younger principal took over she made it 9 am and changed our beloved beige uniforms that showed very little dirt to all white.
    She actually delayed both these changes till my class graduated because we seniors would have none of it.

  98. Typical coffee shop teleworkers often include people who are “waiting” between other work appointments, students who have a long break between classes or between class and a job, or anyone waiting while someone else they had to drive is at an appointment.

    Several audit/consulting type jobs I had, you would be at the client site to do work. If it was for meetings, it was hard to say – hey can I hang out in your conference room and type up my notes for the next hour or so before my next meeting at another client’s location? So, off to someplace with wifi that didn’t make you feel bad for hanging out for that time.

    Dick’s is not great either, but still a person’s first name that is not as common as in prior eras,

  99. Moxie – I agree with childhood being so depressing. My friend just transferred her 9th grader out of the district and he is flourishing. Our school district was running a full year ahead so a failing kid at the high achieving district is now an A and B student breezing through the information.

  100. I only buy shoes online, because I am so hard to fit. The stores never stock ,my size so I can’t try anything on in person anyway.

  101. Rhett – I have been to the Christmas Tree Shop (pe?) in Natick – I think I got a kiddie pool there for like $6. I also went to a dollar store in Lowell before Xmas to get all the Santa stuff, and I was the only nonsmoker in the store!

    DH and I were just in a mall today; we took the lunch ‘hour’ to go return some stuff that I got at Uniqlo and I tried on some pants at J Crew, and we got lunch at our old favorite lunch place (not in the mall). I don’t like to go to regular stores with the kids – I buy all their stuff online anyway. We do take them to Costco every other week or so, where they are less well-behaved than they used to be when they were all <5 and we could corral them in the cart.

    I like to buy everything online except food, jeans, and party dresses. I do a lot of free-shipping and then return to store (like today), but lately I have been returning by mail since we are farther away from the stores than we used to be. Zappos FTW!

  102. Kerri – it’s one of those cultural-language things. No young person with the real name Richard is nicknamed Dick anymore, probably for the reason you allude to. I never recall my kids chuckling when I’d say “hey, do you guys need anything at Dick’s before (sport) starts?” when it would be a natural.

  103. L, we used to shop at that Christmas Tree Shop in Natick when we lived in MA! So great for buying useless plastic crap.

  104. “I also don’t get the people hanging out working on their computer at Starbucks. Have you no home?”

    I go there when I am travelling & have time between the airport and the meeting spot. I have also gone there on a WFH day when the cleaning people are at my house.

  105. Also – too many people use the Starbucks app by me, and so you wait at the other end of the counter longer with no idea of where you are in line.

  106. I have never had any desire to do work in a Starbucks. Too noisy and distracting. I love working from home.

  107. Rhett I think a decent chunk of my extended family furnish their houses from either Christmas Tree Shops or Job Lot. I took the kids there last summer and we came home with various rubber sea creature toys.

    I rarely shop in person. Once my kids are all in school I could see maybe taking it up again but for now I have 2.5 hours by myself three days a week and I am not spending them going shopping. Zappos is a great source for kids cleats. I could always find even the really little sizes there

  108. Just remembered – I found it hard to shop for the kids’ ice skates online. I found #2’s on Ebay but it was difficult to look for the girls’, so I got them at the skate shop, conveniently located in the building with the rink.

  109. I’m trying to figure out a strategy for dealing with the ridiculously early start time. Brainstorming results thus far:
    Have DS take a class for credit this summer and ask for permission for him to come in after first period.
    Have him do something for credit in the afternoons, so he can go in late.
    Work on getting us out of here, and choose a school in our new place that begins at a reasonable hour.
    Get his psychologist to write a letter explaining how strongly poor sleep is linked to his depression.

  110. Christmas Tree Shops looks like my nightmare place!!! I put up a tree for Christmas and hang lights. That is the extent of my seasonal decorating. There is no “theme” or collection of any kind (unless you count video games and dirty socks left lying around by DS).

    We got a new couch, and I needed pillows. MIL was telling me to go to Homegoods because their prices are so much better than the decor stores (Crate & Barrel, etc). And “since I would need pillows for each season” it would be more economical. I was like – you’ve known me for 15 years and your son for his whole life – do you really think we have pillows for every season??

  111. I went into a Hobby Lobby recently and I was amazed at how many rows are dedicated to tchotcke stuff I don’t need. The woman behind me was buying six different kinds of garden angels. The garden gnome and artificial flower selection went on and on. I am thankful I don’t have the gene to enjoy that stuff.

  112. S&M – I would try to rally parents to appeal to the school board. That time could not be more wrong for kids that age!

  113. In the area of MA where we lived, the standard outdoor decor was garden gnomes and wooden figures of overweight ladies bending over, I am sure purchased from places like Christmas Tree Shops.

  114. S&M – our district recently changed start times. The high school didn’t change (still starts around 8:30), but the focus was on the middle school and elementary. It was a debacle and will probably cause most board members to lose re-election. The end result after much debate was moving the middle school to 10 minutes later to 7:40am (or something like that), and the main reasons they didn’t move to after 8 which is what most parents wanted, is sports/after-school activities and busing. A later start time interferes with sports and kids would have to leave school early to play away games. They didn’t care about all the studies and parents and teachers that provided evidence of sleep.

  115. We spend a ton of money at Amazon. I might stray more from Amazon for my online shopping if it weren’t for the shipping issue. So many places sound great, advertise free shipping if you meet some relatively low minimum, but then when you check the details it’s “oh not for Hawaii or Alaska, we’ll send it free via postal mail if it’s to a FPO address in Japan or Germany or Saudi or somewhere but if you’re in Hawaii or Alaska we’re shipping it UPS / FedEx second day so you’ll be paying $40 or $60 for that.” So for us, Amazon is the reliable option, where you can shop with confidence that you won’t be wasting your time putting together a purchase you’re going to abandon at check-out.

    [Why do so many sellers do it that way? I think (1) it’s a typical contract term with UPS/FedEx that you’ll use whichever of them you choose exclusively within the US, and there’s a standard exception for the FPO addresses they don’t ship to, but not for Hawaii / Alaska which they do ship to, (2) UPS / FedEx count on that automatic second day bump-up for their Hawaii / Alaska purchases and since those states represent a drop in the bucket of total nationwide shipping they have no particular incentive to change that, (3) online sellers can make up some of what they lose on the free shipping in 48 states by charging actual shipping costs or possibly more to Hawaii / Alaska and again, it’s a small enough part of the market that they don’t care that much whether they make those sales or lose them to Amazon or someone, (4) the Jones Act means that consumer goods headed to Hawaii and Alaska will almost always be coming from the 48 contiguous states instead of some foreign port so Hawaii and Alaska have limited alternatives. But, the fact that there’s a thriving business model of re-shipping — setting up a depot in CA or somewhere where HI / AK residents can have purchases shipped, which will then be air freighted on to HI / AK for a fee — certainly suggests that the HI / AK shipping prices are a good bit more than could be justified simply by the cost difference between shipping to a mainland address and going the additional distance to HI / AK. You wouldn’t expect a model where you’re actually chaining together two separate shipments to cost less than a model where you just ship it from the originating point to the final destination.]

  116. Ivy – I think you just made the same mistake I made re: Christmas Tree Shops. I went in there once looking for stuff for our Christmas tree (lights probably). It’s not that kind of store. It’s supposed to be a “go in and let’s see what we find under the Christmas Tree” kind of store. Random stuff, IMO. Can’t stand the place.

  117. Mia, I thought about that, but they are pretty far along in the planning process. There are 27 high schools with around 2000 kids each. I will go to the school board meeting and speak.

  118. @Fred – Ah, I think I would hate either one. I was commenting on the link to all the stuffed figurine bunny/fake flower/spring things. So I was thinking of holiday decor – but the kind where your entire house is changed over every month or two for each holiday including tchochkies, pillows, stuffed animals(!), Hummels, new poupourri in glass jars, centerpieces for the tables, etc. Not my thing.

  119. Hobby Lobby, Christmas Tree stores – those with holiday decorations or those Fred described and fabric stores – my version of hell.

  120. S&M – I must say, we all hate my DD#2’s 9:00 to 4:30 day. DD#1’s is 8:20 to 3:20, except Wednesdays is until 4:00, which we like better. Both of my kids by choice are at the school building by 8 am, or earlier if they have an extra-curricular that meets before school or need to see a teacher (DD#1 – teachers must be on campus by 7:15, DD#2 – about half her teachers have morning rather than afternoon tutoring times.) Scheduling appointments so they don’t miss school is much harder and the more advanced classes your child takes, the less class they want to miss.

    I don’t recall you son’s age, but in high school our kids are allowed to take an “off block”. If it is first period you can come in late, but with the block schedule that is only every other day.

  121. Lemon – the school board members will lose reelection because most parents wanted the after 8 time and didn’t get it, or because they didn’t want it? I would think the mess with the sports schedules and after school activities would cause most parents to not want the later schedule – that would certainly be the case here.

    This is one reason why I am glad we have a nearby neighborhood school. The school can start early enough to not cause scheduling messes, without much impact on the kids because they all live pretty close. Many kids walk and can get there in 15 minutes or so. But even the bus rides are brief because nothing is very far away. I cannot imagine trying to cram in sports, afterschool clubs and the huge amount of homework with an hour later start time. The kids are going to bed too late as it is. The school starts at 7:47 (yep, weird time)

  122. S&M – Just saw what you posted. My kids would love to be out of school at 2:10 pm! Here we have the reverse – elementary 7:45 start, middle 8:20 start and HS at 9 am – for public school. Though in our metro we have 6-7 districts that vary these a bit. The entire day got longer for everyone because the legislature now measures the school year in minutes. So, you could go more days or about 15 minutes longer each day. You can guess what they did!

  123. mooshi – part of the start time changes messed with elementary start times, which has everyone all fired up (including me). But the biggest issue is the amount of money and time spent on outside consultants. The board went against the consultants advice, as well as the advice from parents (lots of parent focus groups and surveys). I don’t have middle schoolers, but it seems that the HS late start is favored by everyone and hasn’t interfered with sports in the 20 years they’ve had a late start. The kicker came a few weeks after that decision when a neighboring district approved pushing the middle school start time until after 8 without spending money on consultants and over a year of focus groups.

  124. I’m with Kerri. I think Floppy Ear Bunny Décor is going to the top of the Hummel Skeet list.

  125. RMS, this is for you. DH has a project at the U of Melbourne and I tagged along. We have an AirBNB around the corner from the Melbourne City Baths, an indoor pool built in 1860. The Aussies do love their pools. I went yesterday to swim and despite the signs advising to keep to the left when sharing lanes, ended up colliding with another swimmer when decades of habit overcame the signs. “Welcome to Australia!” was his cheery response to my apologies.

    Good thing we are not driving here.

  126. I think Rhett would take every item in the Christmas Tree Shops and with no doubt, throw all of it out.

  127. “Maybe it’s different in a Kindle, which would make me want to buy one.”

    The Kindle readers were on sale last week. You might want to check if the sale’s still going on.
    Not sure how it would work on a Kindle Fire, but we bought DD one a couple of years ago for $35, and she really likes it (probably because it was that or nothing).

  128. “I think Home Depot’s app will also tell you the aisle number. “

    You don’t need the app. Their website will tell you locations of things in the store.

  129. “But Dick’s is OK?”

    LOL. Thanks.

    “it’s one of those cultural-language things.”

    I’m thinking Butt’s might’ve been no worse than Dick’s back before Sir Mix-a-Lot.

  130. Milo – you asked about an outdoor fridge – did you ever have milk boxes when you were a little kid? The Milkman would drop off our milk; we rarely bought it at the grocery store. We had an aluminum box by the back door, and I guess it kept it cool for a couple of hours. I think we did this until the early 70’s – so you may be too young.

    On hanging out at Starbucks – a lot of people do it here because I think they want to get out of their crowded apartments/houses that they are sharing with 5 or 6 other people.

  131. “they have like 50 kinds of bacon (and everything else). I don’t need that much choice.”

    You sound like a Costco type of shopper. You want bacon? There’s pork bacon, and there’s turkey bacon.

  132. Scarlett,

    Have you checked to see if the water swirls down the he drain other way and looked up and noticed the stars are different?

  133. I think Rhett would take every item in the Christmas Tree Shops and with no doubt, throw all of it out.

    One of the highlights of my corenation will be the giant crap fueled bonfires in the parking lots of the Christmas Tree Shops. The skies will turn dark as the smoke of countless tchotchkes and nicknacks rises across the land.

  134. “I despise open-air malls, like the “town center”one MM referenced earlier that is very conveniently located for me and contains retailers I like. However, if it’s raining or even very cold, it’s unpleasant to walk from store to store loaded down with bags. I would probably visit more often if it were enclosed.”

    You’d probably like the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. It’s open air, but with what look like big sails covering the open areas, providing shade and rain protection.

    In your area, perhaps convertible malls, similar to convertible stadiums, are what you’d like. Open the roof on nice sunny days, close it and turn on the AC on hot/humid days, close it and turn on the heat when it’s really cold or snowing.

  135. CoC, re your Kindle question, you can double-tap to open an illustration / map / image you come across in a book, and use the two-finger pinch to zoom in or out. You close it by tapping an X in the upper corner. It still is clunky compared to flipping to the map in the end-leaf of a paper book, or glancing through page after page of images in a paper book, so for visually intensive books I still look for a paper copy. But you can certainly get a closer look at an image.

  136. Rhett, too much light pollution in the city but my friend lives out in the country where kangaroos roam and koalas live in the trees. Will have to wangle an overnight invite to see the stars. I went out there yesterday and the promised fauna did not appear but there were lots of cockatoos. Her town has banned pet cats in order to protect the birds. I asked her how the ban is enforced, which she thought a strange question (“they’re not allowed” was apparently the answer — also something about cat traps). Cannot imagine an American town banning cats but perhaps it happens. Maybe a country founded as a penal colony is more compliant with rules. For example, very few pedestrian cross the street before the light turns green, and jaywalkers are fined.

  137. I am going to Sydney soon, and I should bone up on the constellations! The only ones I really know are the Big Dipper and Orion.

  138. And we wont even get into the flora::

    Dendrocnide moroides, also known as the stinging brush, mulberry-leaved stinger, gympie gympie, gympie, gympie stinger,[1] stinger, the suicide plant, or moonlighter, is common to rainforest areas in the north east of Australia.[2][3][4] It is best known for stinging hairs that cover the whole plant and deliver a potent neurotoxin when touched. It is the most toxic of the Australian species of stinging trees.

    The pain:

    Contact with the leaves or twigs causes the hollow, silica-tipped hairs to penetrate the skin. The hairs cause an extremely painful stinging sensation that can last for days, weeks, or months, and the injured area becomes covered with small, red spots joining together to form a red, swollen welt. The sting is infamously agonizing. Ernie Rider, who was slapped in the face and torso with the foliage in 1963, said “For two or three days the pain was almost unbearable; I couldn’t work or sleep, then it was pretty bad pain for another fortnight or so. The stinging persisted for two years and recurred every time I had a cold shower. … There’s nothing to rival it; it’s ten times worse than anything else

  139. Oh, I guess I won’t be able to see them because of city lights!

    I’m sure you could drive somewhere inland or on the coast and have a peak.

  140. We have a milkman. He puts ice in the box in the summer to keep it cold.

    My last experience at REI was terrible. I was trying to get hiking boots for DD and the salespeople were completely useless. We went to Cabela’s and it was so much better. The sales guy was falling all over himself to help us.

  141. I’ve been to Australia a few times with friends and work, but I only went one time with DH. We really needed a car in New Zealand, and we wanted to visit a couple of vineyards outside of the major cities in Australia so we also rented a car there to see more of the countryside. He did most of the driving, and he almost got into an accident when we got back to NY. He made a left turn, but his brain was still programmed to drive on the other side of the road. He was actually using the wrong signal for a few days until his brain sort of reprogrammed back to driving on the right.

    I hope you enjoy your trip. I keep going back for visits because there is so much to see, and the people are so friendly. I just wish it was closer, but then it probably wouldn’t be as special because it would be over run with Americans.

  142. Scarlett and ssk have you read In a Sunburned Country yet? It’s Bill Bryson’s book about Australia.

  143. ended up colliding with another swimmer when decades of habit overcame the signs.
    Ha! That would be a really hard habit to break.

  144. Rhett – no, but maybe I should get it. I loved his book about walking around England. Thanks for the tip!

  145. I read In a Sunburned Country before our trip to Sydney. Vivid descriptions of the myriad ways that Australia will try to kill you.
    The people here are very friendly and it’s definitely not overrun with Americans. But virtually every resident of our high rise is a Chinese student. About a third of the students at the U of Melbourne are international, with the vast majority from China. Their parents buy apartments here, sometimes an entire floor, and then apparently either hold as investment or resell to another family when their kids graduate. It’s like an upscale Chinese ghetto. I guess the taxpayers don’t mind having all of these full pay students to subsidize their kids, but can’t imagine this business model working at an American state university under pressure to admit more state residents.

  146. Scarlett, you mean like this? We were at my alma mater near the end of the year. Our friends pointed out new stores and restaurants serving primarily the Chinese students, which is a welcome change. Many of them are very wealthy and, consistent with the stories from other universities, buy very expensive cars and buy real estate in a way unfamiliar to most Americans.

  147. “re your Kindle question, you can double-tap to open an illustration / map / image you come across in a book, and use the two-finger pinch to zoom in or out. ”

    Thanks, HM. That works on my phone but not on my Window tablet with the Kindle app where I do most of my reading. So if this works on a Kindle tablet, it’s another incentive to buy one. I’ve been thinking of getting a Kindle Paperwhite primarily to cut the glare when I read outside.

  148. Largely gone are the days of penny pinching and ramen eating. Instead, many Chinese international students are extravagant consumers in real estate, travel, entertainment, fashion, and other industries. While not every student is ostentatiously wealthy, this new group is certainly better off than their predecessors from 20 years ago. The wealthiest and most visible of the group have attracted attention and criticism. Videos reveal wealthy Chinese students driving Ferraris and buying up mansions. High spending seems requisite for China’s nouveau riche, or fuerdai, in their transition to American college life. One particularly biting article referred to wealthy Chinese women studying in the U.S. as “cash heifers.” While in America, they buy entire season collections of Chanel, spend thousands clubbing, and bring several suitcases of luxury goods home each year.
    One of the articles linked in that paragraph:

  149. In the 80s, the ultra wealthy foreign students were from the Middle East. Same cars, apartments off campus, nights in high end nightclubs etc. The universities can’t resist the students that can pay full tuition, and pissibly donate large money in the future. This happened at my alma mater and there is now an amazing, state of the art building named after one of these former students.

  150. Yeah, ok, I’m from farther north than TX and didn’t know that was a slur. Of course, my introduction to “HEB” was in TX, so I also think of it as the letters instead of as a word.

  151. There were tons of Chinese-American and Chinese national students at the UCs even 40 years, and there are more now. One reason Palo Alto’s real estate prices are so high is that Chinese buyers view it as a good investment and buy it up. I sold Mom and Dad’s house to a guy from Hong Kong. Now of course I want it back but it’s tripled in price.

  152. 20 years ago, my alma mater had tons of international students. This was appealing to me (International Relations major), but its not as great in reality. Once you get a critical mass of a certain culture, they just stick together rather than intermingle with other students. Its just human nature. There was also rampant cheating from these international students. Schools do nothing because it would be killing the cash cow.

    At that time, many of the Latin American students were considered safe havens for their parents money. (Latin currencies were devaluing rapidly) You can keep money in a US bank account without a raising any red flags if your kids are in school.

    I recall one ME student blasting “Gangsta’s Paradise” daily outside my dorm from his bright yellow Viper.

    One thing I also learned, is that as long as it didn’t happen in the home country, it never happened — true for the Arab students.

  153. From my experience there were a bunch of international students who did consider their degree to be a holiday. Some didn’t have an adequate academic background and were unmotivated but they had to chug along and get the degree. They also had a love/hate relationship with the U.S. They liked their freedom, money to buy cars and clothes and being away from their families but at the same time they were still in college, expected to do work, listen to the silly professors drone on and get a piece of paper at the end of it all.
    I don’t think they were the kind to settle into the family business back home either, since that requires you to at least show up at the office or factory every day.

  154. At my accounting school circa 1990 all of what Anon2 said was true down to the yellow Viper. The countries of origin change with the decade.

    Going back to an earlier post about medical practice in the US and patient compliance/bandwidth, DH returned yesterday from a consult with the Gastroenterologist.

    1) He probably just needs a food elimination regimen, not a full GI workup, but the medical system doesn’t work that way. He is starting with one big test, then they will probably do the ones on other parts of his gut, and will find nothing. Your tax dollars at work.
    2) The doc did a very good job querying him, although his self reported diet soda intake was about half of actual. He also mentioned that he puts splenda on his cereal. He came home and said, the doc said to stop using artificial sweeteners. I said, okay, we’ll go to flavored seltzer. He said, he didn’t say anything about diet soda. Why should I stop that? (Wife bangs head on wall.)

  155. I would agree that when you get a critical mass of a particular nationality at a university (or in a city for that matter), especially if they are in the same college/major, they tend to stick together and intermingling is harder. My best friend in college had been a permanent resident since end of middle school with the custodial parent working in the US. However, the ties to that country’s student group were fairly close. My friend intermingled partly because of the prior time spent in the US (all of high school) and the fact that very few were in the same college as we were.

    I was often invited and went to that student group’s activities. My observation is that there were three basic paths (1) working toward becoming a US citizen and never going back home, which made being competitive enough to be employed in the US after graduation was important; (2) wanting/needing the degree to be successful back home (degree not offered at home, US degree more prestigous, or US degree helpful in working in an international or US based company); or (3) parents sent them there for prestige and as long as they got a degree in something it was great, but likely they’d never actually need to use it.

    Those students in path (1) were the most likely to cultivate relationships with students outside of their nationality.

  156. I went to boarding school and then college near Boston in the 80’s That international student crowd was kind of my group. When I met DH at the beginning of college – working class American guy, with scholarships, loans, 4 different jobs, and juggling a computer science major and on a varsity team- SWOON- he was such a grown responsible man, compared to my former crowd. but it was still fun to have the friends with the cars, apartments, ski condos, boats, etc….

  157. Back when I was researching colleges for my oldest, I looked for schools with a minimum percentage of international students because I thought such diversity would be a good thing. Turns out many of the international students did mainly stick together. Some (probably most) were wealthy and some were on scholarship from their home country with tremendous pressure to get good grades. *cough cough*

    Back when I was in school I mingled with international students from the middle east and other countries because of my major. In fact, one of the reasons I selected my major was because I met some of these guys when I moved into what had formerly been the international students housing. I’ve told this story before, but one of these students befriended me and asked me if I wanted to go to his apartment to see his rock collection. As it turned out, he really wanted to show me his rock collection. :)

  158. Back when I arrived at a college with few international students (they were actively recruiting), housing stuck all the others together. However, I was the odd one out and was put into a room with local (not international) college students. Housing just assumed we wanted to be assigned with people from our home country but bear in mind those women were strangers to me. We had all different personalities and I can’t say we were friends or even liked to hang out together.

  159. Louise – on a prior thread you asked about what assisted living services are available. The term “assisted living” is very broad, but is very different from independent living which is really just an apartment with some group services, one meal a day and maid service (all optional but often bundled in the price) and a van to the grocery, mall, medical center. In MA assisted living is very well regulated with dos and don’ts for the facility, and still there was a wide range of what you get. In other states it is probably much more loosely defined. The fee usually includes 1 or 2 meals a day, at most one glass of wine or cocktail at dinner (no more can be ordered), and a bit of daily help, but it is usually x units of assistance a week, with a surcharge for more. A typical tier 2 set of services would be help getting dressed each day and assistance with one shower a week. Laundry, medication management, meals brought to the room, transportation not on the regular bus schedule (if provided at all), extra, extra, extra. After a point they tell you to get a private aide several days a week for additional assistance, or a senior care manager to take them to the doc and listen to the instructions if there is no child/niece to do it. There are group activities, and often a day care program for those who are losing memory but are not at locked ward stage (Bigly extra). At the end, Mom had medication management, went to the memory program six days a week 9 to 3. Had a private aide three nights a week and 12 to 8 on Sunday. And me, of course, local, and a senior care manager for back up when I left town.

    A couple of constants.

    The fee for assisted living is treated as enhanced rent, usually with one or two meals a day, paid by a fully competent adult. Long term care insurance will usually kick in to help with the cost. Not medicaid, medicare or private health insurance. If the elder has diabetes and orders a sugary dessert, the staff cannot refuse to serve him, although they will alert the trustee or next of kin if it happens regularly. If he decides to go for a walk in the snow, that is his business. There is no requirement that there be a nurse on premises 24-7. The resident has a right to lock his door, not show up for meals or activities, etc, although again someone will be notified after a while. In Massachusetts the staff cannot dispense medicines from a regular pill bottle. Mom’s high end facility had a 24 hour nurse, who could put in her eyedrops or give insulin shots to those who needed it. If the resident can’t manage it himself, pharmacy prepared blister packs of medicines can be opened at each time of day by staff, put in a cup and handed to him to take. Can’t force him to do it (again, non compliance is reported). Some asstd livings will let a family member prepare a pill box with the dosages, same drill. Each resident has a locked medication cabinet either in the unit or at the station.

    Saac mentioned that some her former GDR neighbors went off to the retirement home at 70. People in the US tend to go to assisted living at 85. (Mom was 91, should have gone at 88 – she was doing okay up till then). The visitor to the facility doesn’t see the folks in the ads. He sees my Mom and flees.

  160. The number of US students getting degrees abroad has also grown, but at lower rates than the increase of international students coming to the US.

    This chart is copied from

    International Enrollments by Top Countries of Origin, 2015-16
    Country of Origin Total Number of International Students Percent Change From 2014-15
    World Total 1,043,839 +7.1
    1. China 328,547 +8.1
    2. India 165,918 +24.9
    3. Saudi Arabia 61,287 +2.2
    4. South Korea 61,007 -4.2
    5. Canada 26,973 -1
    6. Vietnam 21,403 +14.3
    7. Taiwan 21,127 +0.6
    8. Brazil 19,370 -18.2
    9. Japan 19,060 0
    10. Mexico 16,733 -1.9
    11. Iran 12,269 +8.2
    12. United Kingdom 11,599 +8
    13. Turkey 10,691 -0.3
    14. Nigeria 10,674 +12.4
    15. Germany 10,145 -0.5

  161. same source
    U.S. Study Abroad by Top Destination Countries, 2014-15
    Total Number of U.S. Students Studying Abroad Percent Change From 2013-14
    World Total 313,415 +2.9
    1. United Kingdom 38,189 -0.2
    2. Italy 33,768 +8.3
    3. Spain 28,325 +5.1
    4. France 18,198 +3.4
    5. China 12,790 -7.1
    6. Germany 11,010 +6.1
    7. Ireland 10,230 +15.9
    8. Costa Rica 9,305 +8.5
    9. Australia 8,810 +5.3
    10. Japan 6,053 +1.3
    11. South Africa 5,249 +5.7
    12. Mexico 4,712 +6
    13. India 4,438 -3.2
    14. Czech Republic 4,093 +14.6
    15. Denmark 4,034 +13.8

  162. Thanks Meme. This is very useful information to at least be very aware of, especially the boundaries on staff responsibilities and the menu prices for add on services.

  163. Louise, to follow up on Mémé’s comments: In Colorado, “assisted living” doesn’t have any specific meaning, and you have to ask many questions to find out the services. The salespeople that you talk to at the residence will simply lie to you about many things. “Is there transportation to the doctor?” “Oh, yes!” Except it’s every other Tuesday between 10am and 4pm. So if you can’t get an appointment at those times, you’re out of luck. I kept a private CNA on the payroll to go hang out with Mom three days a week, take her to the doctor, and narc on the other staff if they were being awful in some way.

    Mom had very good Long Term Care insurance, but Jesus Christ, I had to do gladiator battles with the administration to get them to submit the monthly forms. It was really out of control. One question I now know to ask of every facility: How many executive directors has this place had over the last 10 years? If it’s more than 10, run! It means that the place is a nightmare with entrenched mid-level staff who simply won’t do their jobs no matter who the exec director is.

  164. I’m really surprised Canada doesn’t make the top 15 for number of US students.

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