In many developed areas, gone is the day of the mom and pop shop. Almost nonexistent are the corner green grocers or the family-run bread shops, especially in suburbia where malls, chain restaurants, and department stores have paved the landscape.

Maybe my ideas about the past are a bit romantic, but this corporate scenario strikes me as sterile, bland, and boring. It seems like—more and more—everywhere I go, I encounter the same stores, the same restaurants, the same ole same old…

We’ve all seen it happen over and over: a major chain moves in and out goes the little shopkeeper. Some main streets have even folded up in the process. But there is good news too: small businesses are still purported to be the backbone of many industrial societies, creating 97% of all new jobs!

Just this week, Russian president Dmitry Medvedevdeclared the promotion of small businesses crucial to the modernization of Russia and social stability. Also, much debate this week surrounded small business in the US as concerns the stimulus package, health care, and the policies of president Obama.I have no bone to pick with large chains that source cheap clothing; as long as they adhere to stringent ethical guidelines, that is. I’m fully aware that not all men have the buying power or the interest to wear the brands of emerging designers.

Nor am I against big department stores that source the same brand names with the same look, year in and year out, because I understand how some men resist change and prefer dressing alike to blend in with the crowd.

What I do oppose, however, is any callous attempt of large chain stores to make men and women who desire individuality, innovative looks, and unique designs appear irresponsible for not buying their cheap homogeneous labels.

I’m referring to a TV commercial of a major retail chain that I saw recently in the US. In the ad, a woman was shopping in a small boutique when her girlfriends walked in and, in their exchange of words, implied that she should never return.

The sad fact is that these specific types of independent clothing stores are the major promoters of emerging designers. Besides, to paraphrase Time Magazine’s words, small enterprises are incubators of innovation.

So, why are some large retail chains intent on attacking small boutiques? I will leave you to answer that question, while I respond briefly to the attacks.Instead of assailing the risk-taking boldness of small boutique owners, it would be refreshing to see large retailers aggressively stimulate creativity by promoting emerging designers.

As for small boutiques, times are not easy. But small guys can compete successfully and survive by identifying their core strengths and communicating them clearly to the public.
You see, the TV commercial that I mentioned merely distorted the truth about independent boutiques. Prices are higher, but often for valid reasons: they provide superior quality and unique itemss that have not been mass produced.

We are fortunate when we are able to choose where we will shop. But what kind of a world would it be if we all had to shop in the isles of that one chain retailer?

Photo top left Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.

Free photo bottom right from stock.xchng.
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