DEATH OF MALLS 3
If you read a few business magazines in the ‘90’s, aside from the incessant hype about technology ( computers haven’t really changed since the ‘70’s, they just incrementally improved. Which was fine and dandy. I’m writing on a small netbook that cost $300, as opposed to a noisy temperamental tower computer hooked up to a pig of a monitor all which was easily over $1,300. The only thing better back then was the OS wasn’t as much of a hunk of junk [ I stick with Windows for ease of acceptance from publishers ]. My point is while the changes are great how close are they to technological innovation on par with the actual microchip? They are JUST improvements ) one of the buzzwords you couldn’t get away from was “economics of scale”. In the business world buzzwords are what passes for mental activity. Like a bunch of girls sitting around saying such conversational nuggets as “totally” or “bitchen”. They are shorthand for GroupThink. But that was why Big Box stores were going to be the next wave of the future in retail.
Why was “economics of scale” such a new thing now? Colt was the first company, during the Civil War era, to introduce a decrease in price per gun as more in total were purchased. Prior to that, you bought one, you bought a hundred, all the same price. Needless to say, this was quite the inducement to buy in bulk. You understand the concept also. You buy a ten pack of CD blanks retail and they are near a buck each. But a spindle of 100 mail order is under twenty cents each. The only reason people don’t all buy in bulk is the inability to plan ahead and budgetary restraints. Well, plus storage considerations. I’d love to buy enough shoes for the rest of my life at one third retail, a one time purchase, but where would I put them all? As preppers we are all very familiar with the limitations there. No, “economics of scale” meant one thing and one thing only and that was “buying from China”. Everybody knew they couldn’t get a job at a factory anymore but the corporations felt that they were still pretending to sell “made in America”. Now they don’t care, rubbing “globalization” into our faces and daring us to disagree, but back then the mass delusion was important for whatever reason.
Perhaps they were treading softly as Clinton was shoving a red, white and blue dildo up our asses as he was busily barbequing kids at Waco to assert the new Fed dominance. It wasn’t like anyone thought anyone else was in charge since the War Of Northern Colonization, but the Feds needed to show dominance over local LEO’s as the Cold War was over and downsizing the federal government defense budget certainly was NOT going to happen. So, one problem at a time, right? While the feds were busy militarizing the police ( there ya go with those Excitable headlines again, pretending an old problem is a new and sudden life threatening issue. What? Nobody remembers the TV show “SWAT”? The first opening salvo is the propaganda wars to condone and excuse the switch from Peace Officers to Law Enforcement Officers and the widespread systematic Lack Of Accountability. The CULTURE of the police changed, and that was far more important than the issued weapons, but how many focus on that problem? ), the corporation soft sold globalization.
Twenty years AFTER the factories were being crated up and shipped overseas, corporations are still trying to tell us that it is all an optical illusion. First you had the switch from northeast cities to the South, to drastically cut wages. Some factories went to Japan, but they were pretty darn smart for a bunch of Ornamentals and went high quality all across the board ( except for a few hold outs like Subaru ), quickly usurping Germany, and we weren’t losing jobs to them per se. There were few high quality items we had we could export the work. So there was Mexico for a time with their near border factories. The Sam Walton “made in American” campaign worked on the masses, eager to believe the Tech Decade BS ( backed up by near non-existent unemployment-again, thank you Siberian oil-it was easy to accept the sugar coated lie ). So we forgot for a time that there were more cargo containers coming into Long Beach than from other interior regions. The low oil cost did allow some hold outs to continue Making In America ( now, not so much. Now it is a profit center, those Levi jeans at $170, the excuse of high domestic production costs and the misguided notion buying American keeps your money local rather than buying the CEO a Bermuda vacation mansion ). However, the new profits were from China.
Just like the clothes becoming the best selling item due to tremendous mark-ups, everything else, AT FIRST, coming from China was of good enough quality and super low production costs, allowing corporate profits and customer consumer bonanzas to coexist. And the Big Box stores allowed this to happen. There are Big Box stores in indoor malls, but there you had to share your customers. In your own parking lot, on your own location, you controlled ALL the customers. Newly arrived cheap Mexican construction workers used new building techniques to cheaply and quickly construct disposable buildings. They weren’t quality construction allowing multiple stories as in a mall ( another reason outdoor malls are superior in longevity to the indoor malls. Sheetmetal boxes are VERY cheap ), and the suburbs were getting so spread out a central location was no longer necessary. You now had enough customers close enough to build and buy on much cheaper rural land. So cheap gasoline certainly helped out making Big Boxes viable.
Globalization wasn’t JUST because of cheap oil. It was about the one-off cheap Chinese labor, cheap oil, time sharing manufacturing rather than in-house, overpopulation in the US allowing suburban build up on the customers dime. Remember the number one truism of capitalism. FREE inputs, or as close as possible. Russian gave up nearly free oil, the Chinese worked in Victorian slave labor factories while importing our pollution, renting factory production rather than owning the factory, and eliminating the companies liability for customer transportation to the retail terminus. Reduced costs to the customers, from reduced cost to the company was, again, AT FIRST, the draw, the selling point. More tomorrow.
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