Whether you were dragged there against your will or gleefully pranced through the door, if you were holiday shopping in Johnson City, you were probably at the Mall at Johnson City. The salmon pink and azure blue monument to consumerism is the destination for shoppers all the way from Greeneville, Tennessee, to small towns in Kentucky.
It was hard to miss the large yellow, black and red signs that proclaimed that Aeropostale, a long-time mall resident and former favorite of every one of us in middle school, was “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!” and so “EVERYTHING MUST GO!”
If you are anything like me, 70 percent off is hard to pass up and these signs were really saying, “BUY YOUR YOUNG COUSINS’ PRESENTS HERE!” But, despite these screaming signs, a much quieter sign at the register whispers, “We will reopen in January.”
This method of driving sales seems dishonest. The two signs tell different stories and are clearly trying to convince people they are getting a better deal than they might actually be. And, even more convincing, news agencies had been reporting since May that Aeropostale was filing for bankruptcy.
So maybe the “going out of business” sign wasn’t a lie, but it was definitely misleading, especially when the company had known since September that some of these stores would not actually close.
But Aeropostale isn’t the only retailer that is struggling to stay alive these days. In the last two years Hancock Fabrics, Wet Seal and Pacific Sunwear (PacSun), all of which once operated stores in Johnson City, have filed for bankruptcy.
Many people blame Millennials’ shopping habits for these stores’ losses. In an article published by Forbes, retail expert Walter Loeb explains that retailers must change their approach when trying to appeal to Millennials.
What magical ability does our generation possess that can topple retail juggernauts? Loeb states that it is our willingness to use the internet and also our dual fears of unemployment and of an economic downturn. Loeb determines that retailers will need to alter their businesses to suit our shopping habits if they want to survive.
However, the most striking thing about all of this to me is that some retailers haven’t restructured. It has been clear for years that the internet would change the way products are bought and sold. Any retailer who isn’t considering their online presence, and eyeing their competitors’ sites as well, has been doomed for many years.
But maybe these retailers aren’t to blame for their own failure. Loeb’s assertion that Milliennials fear unemployment and economic downtown feels spot on. How can we feel comfortable spending any of our income on frivolous purchases when we are facing a job market that looks so grim? If we can’t go to sleep at night confident that next month’s rent or tomorrow’s Kroger trip will be manageable expenses, how can we give $40 for a tshirt that may not last a month?
I think Loeb’s argument is really the fact that Millennials need stability and because we are getting older, what’s good for Millennials is good for the economy as a whole.
It’s an empowering message, and one that gives me hope that our generation won’t end up going out of business.