The True Meaning of Shopping…

When you shop, is a there a feeling that is produced? Do you feel more cultured?  Do you feel connected to a certain brand or style?  In the Point of Purchase by Sharon Zukin, she outlines all these ideas, and countless more.  However, one of the most important underlying facts she talks about is, what we buy and how we buy it, changed and shaped the culture that we live in today.

Zukin states, “A true marketplace brings buyers face to face with sellers; the resulting exchange begins in rough equality and ends in mutual benefit.”  In the future pages Zukin talks about how shopping in the 1880’s to the 1920’s were a totally different thing than what it is today.  Back then department stores were the ones that ruled.  The Ladies Mile that stretched from 14th Street to 23rd on Broadway, was the place to be if you were a socialite woman of New York City.  The marble pillars and flooring, the full-length mirrors, electricity that light every room, and the hand-craved wooden molding and fixtures, all created this energy and persona of the department store.  Moreover, powder room, tea rooms, and personal money accounts all furthered the exoticism for women at the time.  Today however, things are a little bit different.  High fashion and luxury goods are much more accessible to the common person.  Before when there was a clear cut line between the rich and poor, we do not see this anymore.  Today, we travel from store to store along 5th Avenue that houses every designer name from China to Paris, and from London to America.  These goods are so tangible now, it seems that shoppers today have almost lost that feel of exoticism we once had. Furthermore, shoppers that cannot afford the luxury names simply take any train to Canal Street, where knockoff designer handbags, sunglasses, watches, and jewelry are at their fingertips.

We can look at our shopping history and see that back then the typical person shopping was a white, middle-aged, wealthy, attractive, woman.  However, in New York City, we are in the center of a melting pot, which means that our culture of shopping has changed.  Zukin outlines how we learned to shop, and who is shopping today.  Is it stereotyping to judge someone of their color of if they are going to shoplift or not?  And why has this then come about?  To me the old saying of, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” always come into play, being a sales associate, however why as our culture started to stereotype shoppers?  And even better, why has marketing departments for major brands study consumers shopping behaviors like mice in a maze?  Is this what our shopping culture has really become?  And what will come of the future?

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