Saturday, October 21, 2017

Gerry Warner on Sears closure marking an end of more innocent times

Perceptions By Gerry Warner

So, if the abrupt closure of Target wasn’t bad enough, now it’s bye, bye, Sears. You have to wonder where it’s going to end? Hopefully, we won’t have to do all our shopping on the computer in the future, but who knows?
 And where’s Santa Claus in all of this?
That may be a bit of a facetious question, but only a bit. After all, look at what Uber is doing to the taxi business world-wide. Throw robots into the mix and you have to wonder if anyone will need to shop in the future? Let the bots do it! A robot could probably do a decent job of impersonating Santa too. They’re already building our cars and checking people into their lodgings in Japanese hotels. But is that the kind of world we’d want to live in?
Not this cowboy! 
Heck, I’m so old I can remember when Eaton’s closed in 1999 after more than a century of operation in Canada. An  Eaton’s was a Canadian department store, not a clone of an American operation south of the border.  Timothy Eaton was a Presbyterian Scot immigrant who opened his first store in Toronto in 1869 and quickly built it into a nation-wide chain that pioneered catalogue shopping and huge, multi-storey retail stores in Canada’s major cities long before so-called “big box” stores came into existence.
I remember well the Eaton’s store on West Hastings Street in the heart of downtown Vancouver. It was a big box close to 10 storeys high, but unlike the big boxes of today, had huge leaded glass windows adorned by lattice screens and wide plate-glass-windows at street level with lavish displays that would catch the eyes of shoppers as they passed by on the street. 
And in those days, Eaton’s wasn’t the only big department store downtown. There was Woodward’s just down the street on a grubbier part of East Hastings and the Hudson’s Bay store up on Granville Street, the only one of the big-three, department store behemoths still serving customers today. Back then, the big Vancouver Sears store wasn’t located downtown at all, but over on Kingsway Street, a busy retail corridor of its own. Later it moved downtown to Granville too where it met its demise.
As for Cranbrook, I didn’t live here in my younger days so the only Sears I knew here was the mail-order, catalogue store in the Cranbronbrook Mall downtown which was the last place in my life I made a catalogue purchase, a jade-color fall jacket that I still wear. I’m also still wearing a tattered, white Sears winter parka with a
burgundy hood much to the chagrin of my wife who threatens to throw it out every winter. That issue has yet to be settled in the Warner household!
But I confess to feeling a sad sense of nostalgia about the passing of Sears. Like many a young Canadian lad, I tied Sears and Eaton’s catalogues around my legs when we played shinny on the street before my parents bought a proper pair of hockey shin pads for me. I also remember how excited we were as children when the Sears and Eaton’s winter catalogues arrived by post before Christmas and we eagerly gazed at the wonders inside. Those were more innocent days when people were disciplined enough to actually wait for things they desired instead of ordering them up almost instantly with those fiendish devices they’re always clutching in their sweaty hands. Then there was the Sears Wish Book, which kids and kids-at-heart, anxiously looked forward to every Christmas season.
And to think in the future we can look forward to delivery-by-drone as Amazon is already experimenting with or have a robot serve you at the nearest Apple Store. Not for me, thanks. I still prefer Santa and his elves as well as real, bricks-and mortar department stores like Sears and Eaton’s.

Gerry Warner, a retired journalist is still a kid at heart and a member of the Friday Morning Coffee Club

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