Saturday, July 27, 2013

Retro retailing

According to this morning's newspaper, retailing is going forward to the past.

Canadian Tire, which long ago bought into the "big box" concept in order to compete with the Walmarts and Home Depots that were laying waste to the retailing landcscape, is trying out "small boxes."

The article notes that Walmart itself, the king of giant-sized stores, is experimenting in the U.S. with small neighbourhood and campus locations.

So let me get this straight. These behemoths, having decimated downtowns across the land by wiping out local shopkeepers, are now trying to become local shopkeepers.

This is resonating particularly loudly in the recesses of my cranium because, just yesterday, I was reminded of how much I miss the local hardware store that was within walking distance of my home for many years. It became a casualty of Home Depot, as its customers drifted away in the hope of saving a few pennies and having the choice of thirty types of doorbells.

The proprietor and staff of that old hardware store, where you could buy just one screw if that was what you needed, knew the location of every item, and were happy to advise on its suitability for your purpose and how to install it when you got it home. Unfortunately, customers didn't put a value on that kind of service, and were seduced by the shiny delights of the big box.

Anyway, getting back to my shopping experience yesterday at one of the big home improvement outlets. Buying a handful of items, which would have taken 10 minutes at my old hardware store, took an hour. Inadequate staffing, personnel lacking product knowledge, the need to search acres of aisles and, at the end of it, being stuck in a stationary checkout line due to a malfunctioning credit card terminal, provided plenty of opportunity to pine for a past that has disappeared forever.

No, while the Walmart and Canadian Tire small box stores might be closer to your house, they'll be a far cry from the shops that were wiped out in the retail wars.


  1. You're right. Our society sold its soul for 30 types of doorbells.

  2. It's really sad when you think about it. I remember those smaller businesses that were around when I was growing up. You knew the owners by name, and they always greeted you warmly when you showed up. Some were friends of my parents, and I even went to school with their kids. All these businesses have since faded away.

  3. You are so right. There is still a hardware store in Fonthill (Pelham) and I know they are just hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Got my fingers crossed for them!