Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Buy stuff!!!

In Zola's "The Ladies' Paradise," there's much discussion of how department stores managed (as they do today) to fool the public, attracting crowds by selling items at or below cost price, then allowing more expensive items they never knew they'd wanted to catch their eye. That technique is, err, old hat. The latest innovation those sneaky shopkeepers have come up with is the unintimidating high-end experience. Stores like Scoop or Intermix probably led the way here, with the entire concept of high-end jeans or sneakers moving things along as well. Basically, the typical consumer will deem stores (or restaurants, or neighborhoods) "too expensive" on the basis of how they look, before ever actually looking at prices. If you pass a boutique that's super-intimidating, filled with clothing that could only be worn to occasions unlikely to arise in most people's lives, then you might not think of entering. But if you ("you"="I" for our purposes; it could refer to you as well) pass a boutique that appears to cater to teenagers, with jeans and shiny things in the windows, you think, hey, that's a store I could shop at. While the prices remain absurdly high, the new designer clothing experience is no more intimidating than a trip to the GAP. You can leave and think, I just got jeans and a t-shirt, no big deal, but have spent enough to have bought a new suit. So, rather than shockingly cheap high-end merchandise, we now have shockingly overpriced (though many are now accustomed to it) low-end attire.

That's my profound thought for the night.

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