Råttan mitt bland NK:s mjukisdjur
NK is Nordiska Kompaniet, the larger-than-life Swedish department store company with hugely popular locations in downtown Stockholm and Göteborg, that is, in ways that are hard to fathom for many Western consumers under the age of forty who never knew that era, both a mythical and magical name in the world of consumer retailing, and an aspirational lifestyle.
In Swedish: http://www.nk.se/
In English: http://www.nk.se/en/nk-stockholm/
NK Vintersaga - 2010.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4r7gvi96kU
Much more than almost any other current department store I can think of, NK is like the old-fashioned dept. stores that, in the United States, used to populate large northern cities, as well as Atlanta, large cities in California and a handful of other larger cities, where the promotional activities within the store as well as the print/TV/radio advertising campaigns were a staple of both everyday amusement and general conversation among the local citizenry.
Personal evaluations were made not only on the quality and service of the stores, but also of their ad campaigns, not unlike frank discussions of sports teams or favorite players, whether in a hot-streak or in a slump, and if the latter, what would be needed to change the dynamic?
My sense of things from reading about that era and talking to people very involved in top-tier advertising agencies from the 1950's thru the late '80's, is that people then had a much stronger sense of loyalty to some dept. stores and an equally strong animus or aversion towards patronizing others, often built over personal slights years before, or in some cases, longstanding racial prejudice not easily forgotten.
Now, it's largely about the cost of an item and where you can it cheapest, NOT the retail experience, and I'm as guilty as anyone else, even though I wish it weren't so.
Until the mid-1960's, when the upwardly mobile suburbs and their growing affluence beckoned them, especially in the growing Sunbelt states -until the notion of a large downtown department store without a large nearby parking garage seemed patently absurd on its face- they often played a larger role in a city's commerce and business image than you might think because of the variety of professionals who worked there and who were available to pitch-in and lend their expertise to community groups like the Junior League, United Way, et al.
These professionals were the key to the dept. stores protecting and preserving their upscale image.
For most of the 1970's, I lived four blocks south of the 163rd Street Shopping Center in North Miami Beach, when it was an open-air mall, long before it had a fabric roof erected over it as part of a massive renovation in 1979.
Everyday for years, I walked thru it twice a day on my way to and from JFK Jr, High and NMBHS, so I knew every single inch of it, as did my friends, especially the Burdine's,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burdines where I worked part-time while in high school and while back from IU in the summer a few years later.
See this amazing JFK speech -delivered at 163rd Street!- on, of all things, Castro's Cuba
Katie Couric, circa 1984, reporting from the former 163rd Street Shopping Center in North Miami Beach on the subject of shopping mall crime.
The sorts of dept. stores that I'm thinking of, and which applies to NK's now, are the sort of place that would have been the go-to store for not only visiting tourists, but the local smart-set as well, especially twenty-somethings finally coming into some money and eager to spend a little of it on themselves for an emotional pick me-up, a suit for a man an evening dress for a woman.
Or a new electronic device that promised to change your life, like a VCR.
That sort of dept. store, regardless of where it was located, were also where many of our common sense notions of contemporary consumer behavior first came into play, and in the case of women's fashion, were often deliberately reversed just to catch the attention of influential young would-be fashionistas of the time, whose word-of-mouth was golden in that pre-cell phone and Internet era.
Quite sensibly, some upscale dept. stores created a group of female teen 'insiders,' a talkative and opinionated bunch whose minds and imaginations they plumbed and mined for insight into teen tastes and aspirations, as a sort of in-house focus group.
For instance, the Burdines Teen Board, which when I was still at NMB, had some of my friends on it.
If only those girls had blogs back then, they'd be mini-media moguls!
FYI, circa 2007, the Top 100 Fashion Blogs may've looked like this:
A newer perspective on the most popular fashion blogs, especially those in Europe, can be found at the updated list at popular blogging network Bloglovin.
There's some pretty amazing things there by some very creative and perceptive people.
There have been so many movies and TV shows made about the inter-relationships of people working at dept. stores that even if you lived in a small town in the '50's that was bereft of that sort of upscale and sophisticated operation, you knew what it was like by cinema osmosis, so you knew EXACTLY what you were missing out on.
Which is part of why you wanted to leave Dodge, pronto!
For me, growing-up in South Florida, far from a traditional hotbed of holiday window displays like what you saw in films or TV, the closest to anything like it that I had any first-hand experience came with the Marshall Field's stores in Chicagoland in the mid-'80's, when I lived in Evanston and Wilmette.
On a slightly smaller scale compared to the huge flagship State Street store in downtown Chicago, the Loop, where my talented fashion-forward friend Madeleine Moulton worked, that included the Marshall Field's in Evanston that was located not far from where I lived.
In 1986, that was where I first bought a favorite red Lacoste sweater before catching an early holiday flight to Miami -a sweater that populated many Christmas photos for years- in order to be down here when my nephew Mario was born a week before Christmas.
That was not unlike an earlier red one I bought at the-then L.S. Ayres at the College Mall in Bloomington, that populated many photos of me and various friends at IU and several memorable dates from 1979-'84.
You might want to read my May 26, 2007 post at South Beach Hoosier titled
South Florida's epidemic apathy shows itself once again.
It was about the Macy's store -the old Burdines store- in downtown Miami on Flagler Street, and the shabby conditions of downtown Miami, and Macy's purchase of Marshall Field's and its effect on Chicago area consumers.
That was a follow-up on something that Transit Miami founder Gabriel Lopez-Bernal had written on the subject on his popular blog.
Sorry this reads so blah but my original post here on NK's and the role of department stores vanished when my computer crashed this morning, so I will try to re-post it later if I can.