Thursday, October 9, 2008

Shopping Spree

Discount sales abound
as stores go belly-up

I went shopping this week, feeding at the trough of a dying economy. As I write, it’s T-minus-3-days for the Boscov’s at Marley Station Mall, about seven miles from home. I felt a bit like a vulture, hunkered over the remaining flesh of a department store I had much preferred to the ubiquitous Macy’s.

Boscov’s, a regional chain, expanded into the Baltimore area after the Hecht Co. chain was absorbed by Blob-like Macy’s but ran into trouble as the economy soured and is playing the bankruptcy gambit. It turned over the contents of its three newest stores – those in the Baltimore area – to a liquidator, and I’d been watching the gradual price reductions waiting to feast.

Liquidation prices, I found, are not always bargains. For starters, tags with former sale prices vanished, so the initial discounts of 10 to 20 percent on “original” prices actually increased prices for much of the store inventory.

I’d bought my younger daughter a $100 set of Wearever cookware at a half-price sale a week before the liquidator took over, and never saw it get so cheap again as I contemplated a set for myself. I have my pride, after all: Why pay more than $50? Well, lots of folks drawn in by the big signs about ever-larger discounts had snapped up those pots and pans before they even got down to $60.

OK, I’m cheap. I have friends who laugh about the fact that I clip coupons.

Anyway, as the stock dwindled to the point it took up only part of the first of Boscov’s three floors, I bought a sport jacket Monday for $50 (original price, a fictional $239), only to see sport jacket prices slightly lower the next day as the discounts reached 80 percent. But I picked up some bargain walking shoes and cold-weather boots for a total of $30, while Bonnie was rooting out what little good clothing remained in her sizes.

Then we bought a service-for-12 set of white china for $35. Real china, too, especially if we’re talking about where it was made. Not that our current dishes are so bad, but that the white ones are not scratched (yet) and their color will lend itself better to Bonnie’s stock photography food pictures. So probably, she’ll make far more from the pictures than the dishes cost. (Anyone have a recipe for tax deduction?)

Then I splurged. Went nuts. Out of control. Cuisinart “Chef’s Classic Stainless Cookware”– a big sautee pan, casserole pan, and multipurpose pot, all with lids, and suitable for stovetop and oven.

Shelled out a hundred bucks for the three pots (total list, nearly $400).

After we unloaded the station wagon, I got around to opening the morning paper and found a front-page story on the demise of yet another area business – discounter C-Mart, age 33. Known for selling furniture and designer goods at rock-bottom prices, C-Mart had new owners and planned to expand – only to run up against a harsh economic reality.

“Unless you’re selling things that people have to have, bread and butter and things like that, it’s hard out there right now,” the Baltimore Sun quoted C-Mart CEO Daniel Shuman as saying.

Driving down the main road of Pasadena Wednesday afternoon, I saw another economic casualty: A little Philippine market, going under a little less than two years after its opening. I’d occasionally bought fresh produce there, and it carried raw peanuts that my backyard squirrels enjoyed. But there wasn’t enough business, even with its sideline of renting Philippine movies, to keep the place profitable – particularly after a huge international supermarket opened recently a half-mile away.

Empty department stores, vacant storefronts – they’re growing in number, and will be the bones of an economy going very, very south.

What happened? I met a guy at Boscov’s who noted one telltale cause: America doesn’t make stuff anymore. “Not even ball bearings,” he said.

The guy, a semi-retired college professor, gave his name as D. Michael (his parents named him Darling, he said, but he just uses the D), and he works for Cohen Brothers, the liquidation company. From Maine to Florida, D. Michael said, he helps get rid of the inventory of dying businesses.

Then he rang up my last purchase – a handful of tastefully designed blank greeting cards, just perfect for writing a personalized get-well message or sympathy for a death.

They were discounted at 80 percent.

Maybe I should send one to Boscov’s.

1 comment:

sungal said...

ettlin! i can't believe ur cheap ass spent so much money!