simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: Chains
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Sunday, 13 May 2007


What is seen in the NYC as an encroachment by mass merchandisers and corporate chains, is often seen out of the city as an asset; frequently the small independent store is not an option, so consumers are more appreciative just to have access to the merchandise. Many of the largest chains (including some of the "big box" operations) are now moving into the city, even in Manhattan, where space is at a premium e.g. Whole Foods, Best Buy, Home Depot, Starbucks and The Guitar Center (shown in the photo). Many of these large merchandisers were started as small independents by individuals passionate about their field and not with intentions of rolling out nationally. Although they have paid their dues, this does not justify the type of overly aggressive tactics alleged to be used by places like Walmart and Starbucks, who are seen by some as purveyors of evil. The internet has had a substantial impact on most businesses selling a product, but many products are still best seen in person - musical instruments are a prime example - unless they know exactly what they want, musicians need to do a hands-on evaluation. In the case of Barnes and Noble or the Guitar Center, I personally do not see these particular chains with such foreboding as others because 1) reading a book or playing a musical instrument are activities requiring time, patience and active participation. There are no shortcuts - these merchants can only pander so much to instant gratification. 2) I would much prefer to see a Barnes and Noble or Guitar Center over a fast food chain. The biggest loss is with the knowledge of the staffing, which generally just can't compete with a long time employee or owner of a small mom-and-pop operation. Many consumers feel conflicted about these large chains - although we dislike the concept (with "crass commercialism" and the "dumbing down of society" being popular refrains), in reality they often provide broader selection, lower pricing and longer hours (not to mention more space for reading or playing instruments) that most consumers now want. After all, if you need to replace an A string on a Sunday night, where else are you going to go?


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