As the calendar inches closer to Loehmann's March closing date, the New York Times is reflecting on what has changed in the retail landscape that forced the 93-year-old discount department store into liquidation. Along with the rise of sites like Gilt, says author Ginia Bellafante, "the Loehmann's ethos, especially in New York, is also a casualty of a heightened interest in acute specialization, the notion that shopping should feel more like cultural enrichment than commercial diversion."
Looking toward the city's lastest retail ventures, Bellafante cites Tribeca's The Armoury and Murray Hill's Dover Street Market as prime examples. According to her, they're part of a "trend that has led to the almost criminal overuse of terms like edit and curate in conjunction with the exercise of buying pants."
Apparently, shoppers aren't interested in "the hunt" anymore and are looking for a knowledgable sales staff who can not only find the specific garments they saw in that Vogue issue, but is also educated on the brand, the business of fashion, and beyond. "At Loehmann's," Bellafante says, "you were buying bargains, not conversation, from working-class people, not historians of fashion."
But many people can't afford to buy these conversations, like the 300 New York-area Loehmann's employees who will be laid off from the stores' closures. And neither can the scores of other middle-class citizens who could never pay full price for Prada at Dover Street Market, or create customized trousers at The Armoury. While the discount department store model may be outdated, the need for its prices certainly aren't.
· Loehmann's, Out of Step and Closing Down [NYT]
· Does Loehmann's Signal Discount Department Stores' Demise? [Racked NY]
· All Loehmann's Posts [Racked NY]