For Americans everywhere, walking through the mall is a time-honored tradition. We may not purchase anything, often times settling on viewing things we will never have. Without fail, a Brookstone will come across our line of sight at the mid-point of the mall journey. Greeting us every single time at the front of the store is two people sitting side by side in massage chairs, staring blankly into the sky. Will those people buy the chair? No, of course not, because the darn thing costs about $1,500 dollars. Man does it feel good to get a nice back massage though. Further into the depths of the Brookstone, gadgets, and trinkets could go on for days. For those of us who appreciated stores like The Sharper Image, Brookstone delivered the same thrills.
And just like the Sharper Image, Brookstone is no more. On Thursday, the company announced bankruptcy and will proceed in closing out all 102 of their stores. Brookstone also has a strong imprint in airports throughout the country and will be selling those spaces. Founded in 1965, Brookstone became a staple of shopping malls everywhere and had a strong showing for decades. Unfortunately, the world of online shopping will continue to force brick and mortar stores to close.
In considering the history of consumerism in America, the change in spending habits occurs quickly and without mercy for the companies and people caught in the wake. Before the concept of online shopping and Amazon, all spending was done in person. A large portion of that spending occurred in the “mom-and-pop” stores; localized companies that specialized in a very specific market and focused on strong customer relationships. Those smaller stores lost out to the force that was Walmart. Walmart moved into cities throughout the country, willing to operate in the red using predatory pricing to force out everyone around them as customers naturally prefer to save money. Today, physical stores are losing out to Amazon and other online retailers. In specific, Amazon can offer competitive prices compared to traditional retailers. The biggest trump card for the online companies are convenience; being able to purchase something online and not have to make the trip, is very inviting for many people.
Unfortunately for Brookstone, what made them unique is no more. The way of the world is online, and Brookstone is another casualty in the current model of consumerism.
Thanks to the Washington Post for story details.