I’m writing this on St. Patrick’s Day morning, an occasion when I feel more blah than lucky. First off, I’ve been sick almost all week. Usually when the season transitions from warmer to colder or vice versa, I tend to get rocked by a nasty cold that lasts much of a whole week. It’s the case almost every October and, as this week reminds me, every March or even April. Call it a case of my immune system trying to adjust to a different temperature extreme.
If you’ve read some of my blog posts over the past year or so, you’ve sensed a lament of retail fashion and department store outlets succumbing to the pressures of nimble competition and owners who want to make a profit on their investment. It doesn’t matter whether it’s selling clothes or toys, whether they catered to a younger or older crowd, or even if they were prominent in online sales. If a store closes up shop, it leaves an empty space in your nearby mall/plaza/whatever, creates queasiness in city and mall managers, and definitely leaves a big pit in an avid shopper’s heart.
Unfortunately, what’s been a leading reason for these stores/chains shuttering is bankruptcy. It’s been happening with Shopko, which declared Chapter 11 in late January and has announced more than several store closures since then, including their last 3 locations here in the Madison area. For Shopko, not only is their misfortune the result of withering competition, it also involves keeping lining further the pockets of their
vulture private equity owners. At the beginning of this month, it was revealed that Shopko had to borrow over $179 million from financial lenders to pay dividends and “consulting fees” to the investment firm that owns it. Some of that money — $13.5 million worth — could have gone to the State of Wisconsin in the form of taxes and other fees Shopko still owes the state. Yeah, that’s a lot of money, and who knows what Shopko’s fate could be right now if it went to where it should have gone (i.e. the taxman, employees, debtors) instead of the fat-cat owners who want only one thing: A quick return on their investment. Continue reading
Does this photo ring a bell, faithful readers?
If you read this post from last year, or if you’ve ever perused through my Flickr album, you probably remember seeing the above outfit, and in particular the black jacket I’m sporting. The black-colored Gitano cotton jacket is probably the oldest item still in my female clothing closet. I found it way back in 1992 in the youth/young adults section of the Shopko department store down the road from where I lived.
If you’ve also read my previous post, you’ve learned that Shopko is in a bit of a financial bind. Shopko is a department store chain founded and based in Green Bay that has been in existence since 1962. Last month, facing a lot of debt and withering competition, Shopko filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced a series of store closures, including the last three Shopko stores here in Dane County.
While I admit I haven’t gone to Shopko very much in recent years, the news of their bankruptcy and departure from Madison and other large and small towns in its footprint left me a bit sad. I found myself in agreement with a retail industry observer interviewed by the Green Bay Press-Gazette about Shopko’s bankruptcy. “This one doesn’t surprise me,” he said of Shopko’s bankruptcy, “but it’s a company I hate to see go.” Indeed, while the Walmarts and Targets of the world have run laps around Shopko and other department store chains, it has been a nice place with generally good customer service, and where you can get what you want (cute outfit, comfy boots) or need (toiletries, shoes, dining room set).
By now, you’ve perhaps heard of the hopefully happy news in the world of retail shopping: Sears is going to stick around a little longer. A couple of weeks or so ago, a U.S. bankruptcy judge allowed a plan by the chairman and biggest shareholder of Sears’ and Kmart’s parent company to stay in business, beating back challenges by creditors of the company who wanted a liquidation.
So, the judge’s approval means that Sears’ 425 stores will stay open, and its 45,000 employees will remain on the job. While that’s good news, naturally, it’s not all sunshine and lollypops at the moment: Sears Holdings has been under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since October, and since that time has closed several of its stores, including its location at West Towne Mall, just down the road from where I live. And it still has to find a way to attract those who left it behind for the likes of Walmart, Target, and Amazon.
This poem is inspired by the topic I addressed in my previous post, which talked up the closing of a couple of anchor stores at West Towne Mall here in Madison. As I mentioned in that post, the eventual closing of the Boston Store chain, including its West Towne location, first made news back in April (it’s slated to close for good this week). Sometime after that, this poem started percolating in my mind. And in all truth, I finished it pretty quick, or at least quick enough to perform it in an open mic performance the last day of June at Mother Fool’s. (Yes, it was a few days after I lost my job. Yes, performing helped take my mind off my job search a little bit.)
In prefacing this poem at that performance, I asked a show of hands from the audience of about 20 or so, inquiring as to how many of them had the chance to check out the Boston Store closing sale at that point. The response wasn’t 100 percent, but more than a few (60 percent was my guess) put their hands up in the affirmative. The rest of the audience? Well, I think they spend too much time on their computers. (Dang you, Amazon!)
I want to start this post by mentioning something that took place a year ago but did not get the chance to share until now. Despite the delay, it perfectly dovetails to the theme of this post — stores closing in malls.
Time for something I haven’t done on here in a while: Clear out a bookmark that’s long been sitting idle in my browser. It’s about a business here in Madison that I’ve highlighted a couple of times on here before: Mallatt’s, which has long been known for its prescription services, home health care and convenience items, and more famously a wide selection of costumes and theatrical makeup. In the autumn of 2016, Mallatt’s made the decision to discontinue its prescription services, due to changing times and increased corporate competition. Then a year ago, they closed their remaining brick-and-mortar locations. Since then, Mallatt’s has concentrated on their online sales and services, both in home care services and costume sales.
Some relatively quick fashion tidbits to share with you, starting with this tweet I shared with the world last weekend:
In what may be the strangest (to me, at least) holiday dress I’ve ever seen, this display at Windsor in the West Towne Mall featured a strapless gown decked out entirely in pine tree needles. Clearly, this is meant to be a seasonal window display, one meant to encourage shoppers to check out their store. But if one were to actually wear this to a holiday party… well, for sure, it would be quite the statement-making eye-catcher, one that would be sure to strike up a few conversations about the wear being “fashion forward.” However, there would be issues with sitting down (“OuchOuchOuch!”), not to mention shedding needles (“Would someone please bring over the broom and dustpan? Or better yet, the vacuum cleaner.”).
Hard to believe that it’s been a month and a day since I stepped out for the very first time as Allison in the OutReach Pride Parade & Rally. To be honest, it feels like it was only yesterday that I dressed up and marched with my fellow members of the trans community, our supporters, and folks from the broad LGBT+ community in the Madison area.
While I try to keep the euphoria of that Sunday afternoon lingering in the top of my memory for a while, if not longer, I wanted to bring up a few leftover items from the day. First off, the security. In the days leading up to the parade and rally, the organizers felt concerned about something sinister happening that afternoon, a concern escalated since it fell just days after the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia. With that, they had announced on Facebook that they were working with the Madison Police Department to step up security for the event, just in case… you know…
I am currently in the middle of a week-long break from work. It’s not that I need the vacation. Well, okay, I do. Let me actually rephrase that: I actually need to take a vacation. Let’s just say Male Mode Me is a workaholic and isn’t one to travel too far for a vacation, let alone take one.
But that’s not to say I don’t appreciate the good things that a week away from work can bring. I can just relax, do some volunteering, and… yep, go shopping! Especially at this time of the year, when every store is wrapped up, figuratively speaking, in the hustle-bustle of the holiday season. So it was last Saturday, when I decided to just browse around the mall down from where I live and came across several displays of cool clothing at Boston Store. Like, say, this one in particular: