Sears & Rock Music & Hollywood and Blackberry & (“Old”) Malls are in Trouble — A Few Observations at the End of 2011

(Personal note – call this a bit of a rambling reflection on the close of 2011.  This is just me, kind of thinking out loud).

I went to a couple of movies this week.  That should not be a big deal to note – but, you see, I haven’t been to many movies for quite a while.  But, I am also no longer the target audience for movies (boy, does that make me feel old…).  I liked the movies – they were ok, gripping even.  But, they were old/new/old; sequels (to sequels to sequels).  One of them, the new Sherlock Holmes, is a sequel to countless sequels that came before.  (A little over 30 years ago, I went to an all-night marathon of old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies).

I shopped some for Christmas.  Nearly all of it on-line.  I am pleased with the outcome.  But I did my part to put the malls in jeopardy.

As I read, the malls are in some trouble.  Not too many Christmases ago, here in Dallas, Northpark, Valley View, The Galleria, and PrestonWood (and Richardson Square) were all full-to-overflowing at Christmas time.  Now, Northpark is definitely flourishing, but there is no PrestonWood or Richardson Square left, Valley View is at least half a ghost town and certainly on its last legs, (and I haven’t been to the Galleria – so no opinion on that one).  And Sears?  Well, I drove by a couple of their stores, and never saw enough cars in front to think “they’re having a good Christmas.”  And, it turns out, I was right – they are closing 100 to 120 stores (or more?)…

And, as for Hollywood, the box office is down.  And in terms of actual attendance (factoring out higher ticket prices), way! down!  And Rock Music is “zombified.”  Here’s the quote:

“2011 may well be remembered as the most numbing year for mainstream rock in music history,” declares New York Times critic Jon Caramanica. “Declaring a genre dead is the worst, least imaginative sort of proclamation, so let’s call it zombified.”  (Read the article here).

Blackberry will try again soon to revitalize its brand, but plenty are doubtful.  And the list could go on and on.  (Where did all the cafeterias go?)

This could all be inevitable, and even good.  Creative destruction; on-going economic innovation…  The old must die, the new will come.

I suspect that this is true.  The mall replaced the shopping center; the big box store replaced the mom and pop store; the virtual store, in many instances, is replacing the brick and mortar store.   The new businesses will replace the old.  The Shamrock Hotel in Houston gives way to the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine.  The new is so much “better” that the old is replaced, and the new is bigger, better, newer, more high-tech, more innovative.  Sometimes the old is simply leveled (Texas Stadium is gone, as is Reunion Arena, both replaced by far better, newer, bigger, “cooler” versions.  And, by the way, in the case of Reunion Arena, we tore it down before it was even fully paid for.  Amazing!)

This, of course, is not a post about rock music, or malls, or Hollywood, or where we shop, or where we work.  It is a post about our era – about this time in our history.

Montgomery Ward invented the catalogue, and lasted 129 years.  Sears made it 117 years before merging with Kmart in 2005, forming the current, now precarious, version.  BlackBerry has been around about 11 years – MySpace was practically dead and buried after about seven years.  The list is long, and growing longer.

I think this – we are in the midst of such an all-consuming, everywhere-permeating moment of “creative destruction.”  We are in the throes of giving birth, even as we are in the throes of (more than a few) deaths.  It is an uncertain time.  The optimists among us tell us that when the dust settles, it will be better.  And we will do just fine.  I hope so.  But it is unsettling as we go through it, don’t you think?  And as far as that “when the dust settles” part – I suspect that the next new new change will come so quickly after the next new change that the dust may never quite get a chance to fully settle again.


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