Sears R.I.P.

             Our one and only department store has closed and I am partly to blame.  Note I said partly, as the other 99,999 inhabitants in the area are also responsible.  It does seem strange that a city of a hundred thousand people can’t support a department store, but that is the reality of the changing retail environment, and it’s not just here, department stores are in trouble all over.  Sears has gone bankrupt and closed it’s stores all across Canada, leaving us a nation with just one department store, Hudson’s Bay.  The Hudson’s Bay Company was the oldest, established in 1670 as a fur trading post, back when Europeans considered it fashionable to wear beaver pelts, so perhaps it is fitting that it is the only one still standing.   Eaton’s succumbed back in the late 1990’s, although it did a roaring trade in the eighties when every city had an Eaton’s Centre mall, back when people actually hung out at the mall.

       The Sears store in town had been in operation since 1954.   One of my earliest childhood memories was of my parents taking me to Sears to shop for a new dress, (my older siblings must have been in school, and perhaps I was soon to go), and I had to chose between a blue one and a brown one.   The dresses were both otherwise identical with short puffy sleeves and smocking, the kind of dresses little girls used to wear before they wore leggings.   I can’t remember which one I chose, it might have been the blue, but it sticks in my memory because it must have been the first time I was allowed a choice. Normally my mother dressed my sister and I in identical outfits, or I wore her hand-me-downs.   Slowly our retail choices are becoming more limited.   Other than Walmart which I don’t consider a choice, plus a few ladies shops for older women, and the usual teen jean stores, the mall is littered with empty store fronts, even the food court is deserted.   You could go through it in an hour, while I remember whiling away a Saturday afternoon shopping at one of our two local malls.   You couldn’t do them both the same day there were so many stores.   Now the nearest department store and decent mall is two hours away.     

            Yes, I know there are lots of choices on the internet, thus the demise of the brick and mortar operations, and I know the internet is cheaper, but I when want to shop for clothes, I want the thrill of the hunt.   I want to browse, see what catches my eye, feel the material, try it on, see if it fits – and I don’t want the hassle of having to return stuff.     Someone told me part of the appeal of online shopping (other than the obvious of saving time and money), is they like the idea of having a package waiting for them when they get home, but how many of those packages have to go back, or are kept because the alternative is just too much work.   And what about the porch pirates?  The delivery guy once stuck my Sephora order behind a flowerpot on the front deck and the $24 tube of Tarte lipstick melted in the ninety degree heat.  What fun that was to get refunded.   I have shopped online after trying something on in the store if they didn’t have my size.   Occasionally I have ordered from L.L. Bean (their perfect fit pants really are a perfect fit), but only because I know my size with them, and only when the exchange rate of Canadian to US money was on par, because we also have to pay customs and shipping when ordering from the States.  Unless you really love it, it’s just not worth the additional cost. 

          I could just as easily have titled this post, The Death of Style.  I loved shopping when I was younger, (see vintage blog).  When did it become so difficult to buy clothes?   I distinctly remember it as being fun, a hobby of sorts, retail therapy before the term was invented.   So, when I say I am responsible for the demise of Sears, it’s true – I hadn’t bought anything but socks and underwear there for years.   Other than my twice yearly trek to the Estee Lauder counter to buy Night Repair, which I have been using faithfully for over thirty years, (by now they should be paying me), I don’t think I will miss it, other than the gift with purchase.  Because the truth is the clothes were ugly or poor quality or just plain boring.   So, it’s not just my fault you see, it’s the clothing manufacturers too.  They need to start making better stuff and offering more choices.   Is it too much to ask to have a bit of style with function and fit.   As I have gotten older I have gotten fussier about what I buy, and that Marie Kondo tidying up book in January (click here) has only made things worse with it’s closet advice.   Now I have to ask myself – does it bring me joy?   That is why I have worn the same winter coat forever – I never find what I am looking for.   I have a vision of my new winter coat, (a nice rich red, not orange-red, belted, wool, three quarters length, classic cut), in my head but that’s the only place it seems to exist.  I would even settle for a new ski jacket (also red, with white or black fur trim), but all you could find in Sears were long over-sized puffy parkas – yes, it’s cold here but we don’t live in igloos.  Have you ever tried to shop in a parka – instant hot flashes.  Even when I do find something that might be somewhat suitable, I find myself critiquing it.   I found a nice black belted wool coat but why would you put such cheap brass buttons on a black coat.  Or maybe the style is nice, but the color is wrong.   When I was in grade school I wanted to be a fashion designer, but was discouraged by the guidance counselor who looked gravely at me across the desk and said, young lady, you have a C in art.   My dreams were dashed, but I wonder if it’s too late?  If anyone has an advice on where to shop for stylish clothes, either in-store or online, please leave a comment.

 (see part two: Twenty Pairs of Black Pants next week)

Postscript.  my fellow Canadian blogger, Anhistorianabouttown, has posted a book review on, Service and Style, a book about how the American department store fashioned the middle class…sounds interesting…..click here for a link to her review.   

 

18 thoughts on “Sears R.I.P.

  1. doodletllc says:

    I love this post. It rings so true. I began my working career in retail in NYC (as a buyer) and loved every second of it, until the wheels began to fall off of American retail…who was the customer?, what price points work?, what happened to quality goods at a decent price? and on and on…until American retail died. I refuse to go to malls and shift through junk. My favorite stores were high end fashion spots at great prices…wonderful fabrics – cashmere, linen, 100% cotton…Now I shop TJ Maxx for everyone in the family…it’s a place you need to take time with and look but the quality at a good price can be found. I also shop Costco…food, furniture, pharmacy and clothes…all under one enormous roof. I am sorry about Sears…we lost our Sears too. It was always a decent establishment. On-line shopping works to a point, but you are so right about the thrill of taking time to shift through and feel the goods. Thanks for posting. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      Thanks for your comment! I always thought being a retail buyer esp in NYC would be a lovely and fun job if you love clothes. Unfortunately in Canada, we have a limited number of stores to shop at, no TJ Maxx or Kohl’s, just Winners which I like for home stuff but not for clothes, and our nearest Costco is 2 hrs away…..I might have to plan a spring shopping trip!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. anhistorianabouttown says:

    I find that the Bay has so many more options when it comes to clothing! As you say, Sears has been out of date and frumpy (style wise) for YEARS and I’ve never had such great service that has made me want to shop there in spite of it… it does make me sad that HBC is no longer Canadian-owned but I will still shop there (and do)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      The Bay was always a step above Sears, but the closest one is 2 hours away and is a fashion only store. I wish the Bay would open in the recently vacated Sears space but I doubt it will….so most likely I have a few spring shopping trips in store. PS. I saw they were selling those ugly striped HBC blankets in Europe someplace – I suppose it’s a novelty there!

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  3. lindasschaub says:

    As a young girl, my parents would take me for school shopping and a Winter coat to Eatons and Simpsons downtown, likewise going to see Santa there and going through the tunnel from Eatons to Simpsons in downtown Toronto. Those are nice memories. Our Sears store is destined to close as well – how it has withstood closure I don’t know because it is a smaller store and the anchor store in a outside shopping mall that will no doubt be razed when it is closed since most of the other stores are long gone. I used Estee Lauder Night Repair for years as well – not now since I’ve worked at home and I loved it as it was not greasy and left a mess on your pillow. The same with the cucumber smelling cream to put under makeup – my skin is oily and always has been, so it seemed silly to me to wear the cream, but it does help to make the makeup adhere – I’ve not worn makeup for 18 months and before that a few years. When I first was home after my mom with her dizzy spells, then taking care of her, the first thing to go was the contact lenses and the makeup … oh I would put makeup on to go to the eye doctor, dentist, and when I went for my taxes because they knew me from my “former vain life” and then a few years later I said “well I don’t really care – if they don’t like me looking natural, that’s too bad.” I am tall so I now buy sweatpants and sweatshirts that are mens so that the tops and pants are long enough – my mom would say to me “have you no shame – you who used to be so vain?” She would have a point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      Yes I’m sure we are sisters! Estee Lauder Night Repair! Absolutely no one I know uses that except for me. I still use it, mostly because it is unscented and one of the only things I can use on my sensitive skin. My makeup standards have slipped considerably, but I must admit even if I am just going down to the corner store I will still put my mascara on and cover up my horrible undereye circles because if I don’t and I run into anyone I know, I will get the inevitable, you look tired comment. Otherwise if I am home all day I don’t bother. There is now an above street tunnel from the Toronto Eaton Centre (although no Eatons store it is still called that), to the Simpsons Sears building which is now a Nordstrom. I was last in Toronto 3 years ago (for a work course), and visited Nordstrom’s but it was very expensive…. nothing there for me but it is new to Canada so interesting to see.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I had makeup on once last year. That Night Repair is great and I use the Estee Lauder foundation and powder because my skin is oily (or used to be, lately it seems to be not so oily but it could be the cold air and the furnace being on, even though I have a humidifier on the furnace). I like the eye cream too but I don’t use it now as it is so expensive. The Night Repair you only use such a small amount. I have ALWAYS had horrible undereye circles and the older I got they looked more like bags. I would go through all this effort to cover them up when I still wore contacts. When I started working from home, I stopped wearing contacts and my glasses pretty much cover up the bags. Actually, my mom used to tell me for years to go to glasses as the circles/bags would not be as evident, but I was very vain and didn’t want to wear glasses. I just wear a lip pomade at home and put my hair in a high ponytail on top of my head – I really has such minimal effort for myself now, compared to what I used to do, it is sad really. Hard to image an above-street tunnel for the Eaton Centre – I remember the tunnel and you went through it under the roadway and in the tunnel they sold those waffle ice-cream sandwiches. They were famous for them … a little vendor was there and they had hot waffles and they put the ice cream in between. There was Eaton’s Annex which as a kind of bargain basement area for Eaton’s as I recall and they had lots of sales and I can remember going there with my parents. I think we have Nordstrom’s here but in the fancier shopping malls in the northern suburbs and I think they are quite trendy in their clothes, like a Saks Fifth Avenue? I used to buy things at Lord and Taylor sometimes because they had pants/pantsuits that fit and my mom and I would get good bargains in the off season – always went to get the Summer clothes as soon as they started putting the Fall/Winter clothes out. When I was still working on site I would do my errand/running around on Saturdays and try to stay home and in the house on Sundays if possible. I’d leave out my contacts and leave off the makeup and liked to stay in the house if possible and just relax. My mom would say to me “you get dressed up all week and then to be home here with me, you don’t care what you look like.” Well, my mom would be horrified to see me now!

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        I don’t wear any of the other Estee Lauder products, just the NIght Repair, which I schedule for the gift with purchase and then give the rest of it away to a friend who does use them. I can’t handle scent in a product no matter how subtle. I wear my hair up in a high pony too often when I am home esp in the summer, although now that’s it’s a bit shorter, a longish bob, I tend to leave it down. It is darkish blonde, and has some gray to it but not much, but I am still vain enough to color it, even though I said I would never be one of those people who run to the beauty salon every 6 weeks. I am beginning to think we must be clones!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        This is just incredible these similarities. I used to be able to have my hair down at work (and even have a scarf or neckerchief around my neck) and hair hanging down (kind of a distraction sometimes) yet now, my hair spends 100 percent of the time up. At home just a high ponytail on top of my head almost like a bun and for walking in the Summer, same way, except I have this neat hair doo dad which is fabric with metal inside and you can twist your hair to make it like a bun, so do that for Summer. I get highlights and lowlights (used to be just highlights, but now that I am going gray, and because it is a darkish blonde too, it didn’t look bad, except for the wiry strands that stuck out around my face and that was not so good. I get the highlights done three times a year, if I was working it would have to be four times a year. I had an appointment to get highlights on the 10th of November and had made the appointment back in July – two days before the appointment, the weather folks on all stations called for an ice storm Friday night into Saturday. Now if it snowed I could walk, just about 3 1/2 mile-round trip to Jill’s and back home. But the ice worried me, so I cancelled. We got nothing. I told Jill “it doesn’t matter, I’m not going anywhere, I’m in a hat from October til mid-April so just make the appointment for mid-April.” Well, that sounded good on paper, and I didn’t like all the “sprouts of gray” and the weather was clear for Black Friday, so called and she could take me, so I went. That was dumb in a way as I have nowhere I’m going and only I see myself if I wear a hat! Vain after all these years or trying not to be vain – not as vain as I once was (like in the picture with the newspaper that you mentioned.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        Yes it is incredible the similarities! I can’t do my hair in a bun though…..I’m pretty much useless with styling it other than a straightening iron and a high ponytail. Even if I don’t wear much makeup or dress up anymore, nobody else does either, but hair still makes a statement, so I think it’s important to try to keep it looking nice, even if it is expensive to do so….it’s my one splurge. I can’t seem myself letting my hair go gray for another decade or two!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I’m with you on that with the hair – I used to spend a lot of time, and money on my hair. Before I got it layered, I wore it in a French braid or my mom would do a chignon when I was dressed up. I have shoeboxes downstairs with my hair accessories all organized (from my organized person days). I had a lot of combs that I used with the French braids. I didn’t do them, my mom did the braids for me – I am useless with styling too. When bangs and a feathered look were in style – I never could style my hair for that look. I looked better in bangs and I used to take my curling iron to work because I’d walk out in the morning and they’d stick straight out … from October 15th to April 15th, I wore a hat so arrived at work ready to go and didn’t have to duck in the bathroom. I was like you, not sparing any expense for the hair. I go to a small salon, just a husband and wife, and last time I went it was $96.00 for highlights/lowlights/shampoo/cut/blowdry. I figure that is my only indulgence too, though I did get the camera this year which was a big extravagance for me and I got some things related to the camera like more outside gloves with the fingers cut out and another carrying case for it, some extra lens covers – it seems like I was always putting out money related to picture taking this year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        I had my hair done last Thursday (root touch up colour and cut – $92 plus tip so basically $100 each time) and my hairdresser had her hair in a french braid with some kind of sparkly hairband like you would see on Downton Abbey from the Roaring 20’s time – it was so stylish looking. She is 25. So she said to me, you could wear that and I’m thinking no way – only if you did it! It was braided on the sides and rolled under at the back. I had a hairdresser do a chignon once but didn’t like really how she did it…..I wanted a classic low chignon. I have bangs. I wish I could find a stylish winter hat……I was going to blog on hats last winter, as it’s so hard to find a nice warm hat! Going to bed! Good night! You should too! Tomorrow is another blogging day!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Yes, I finished in Reader – hooray … luckily not too many people today and tomorrow I’ll try to eke out a post and hopefully get to bed early. We weren’t that busy today but my boss and his issue. Yes, with tip added on I was cringing … but worth it. I loved the French braid and with no bangs, I could look the same when Ieft the house in the morning as when I returned home at night. I had some soft poufy wool hats and they needed to dry-cleaned as they had another woolen inner liner – I took them to the cleaners for years and years – new people there and they stretched them out of shape – what did they do for goodness sake? The new hats I have fit too tight and smush my hair and pinch my head. I am heading to bed in one minute thankfully. Going to send you the story I heard about the ceramic trees first. Sweet dreams!

        Liked by 1 person

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