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Michael's Metaphors of Life Journal

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Books, Designer Dolls, a Pound of Lard and a Kick-Ass Crossbow

November 2nd, 2013 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, is Walmartization the future of retail and, if so, is that something to celebrate or to mourn?

I’m probably showing my age when I make this declaration. But honestly, I miss the good old days when grocery stores sold groceries, bookstores sold books and Canadian Tire sold tires and other automobile accessories.

In the survival of the fittest corporate world of the 21st century, it seems retail specialization is a thing of the past. Many of the big retail chain stores are crossing over into multiple product categories that have little to do with what they started out selling.

Indigo Books & Music is one of the latest to join the fray. Faced with declining sales of books in the digital age, they are leapfrogging across product boundaries to sell toys, children’s products, gifts and home wares.

I learned today that Indigo has struck a deal with “American Girl” to sell their high end dolls which command prices of $80 to $100 for “Bitty Baby” or “My American Girl”. So much for a pleasant hour spent browsing my local Indigo. I can’t see myself navigating around designer dolls to find the latest titles.

Online book seller Amazon is getting in on the act as well. In addition to toys, beauty products and home goods, they are reportedly considering launching online grocery and auto shops. Can’t say I ever thought I would see the day when I could order spark plugs, a pound of lard and mascara with one click of my mouse.  (Insert your own punch line here.)

I suppose I should see it as convenient that I can buy live trout and children’s clothing at the grocery store and drop off my dry cleaning on the way out. Or grab a couple of packages of paper towels and a Snickers bar while I’m in Canadian Tire to stock up on weed killer.

Maybe I should head on over to Walmart to do my weekly grocery shopping, find a new winter coat, replace my outdated microwave oven, pick out a new file cabinet, stock up on motor oil, score a snorkel and goggles for my next summer vacation and throw in a kick-ass crossbow… just because I can.

Too bad I won’t be able to pick up a two four of Coors Light at my corner convenience store since the government has nixed that idea. But the day surely can’t be far off when I can add that staple to my overflowing shopping cart at Walmart.

I’m pretty certain that I’ll eventually be able to rent an apartment, or buy a condo, above a Walmart. It seems like a logical product extension for the store that aims to have it all.

All kidding aside, I miss the days when each retail store specialized in a particular product area. Stores had a distinct personality back then. You could take your time and browse for interesting finds rather than rushing to get to the checkout line before the 172 other people shopping at the same time.

Walmart  may well be on the way to offering one-stop shopping utopia with Indigo and Amazon following the trail it blazes. But for me it has become a metaphor for a one-size-fits-all, blur the lines, melting pot experience that leaves me feeling rather uninspired… and yearning for the good old days when books were books and dolls were dolls and never the twain shall meet.

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel” – double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at www.mdyetmetaphor.com or the novel online companion at www.mdyetmetaphor.com/blog.

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