Thursday, April 18, 2019

Company Man on JCPenney's decline updates tales of the Retail Apocalypse for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

Happy Throwback Thursday!  For today's retrospective about the top posts of the previous posting year, I refer my readers to my closing for Vox explains tax reform for Tax Day plus taxes and economics for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News:  "The next one will be about the Retail Apocalypse.  That should be a long one.  Stay tuned."

To lead off this entry, I have an update on the history and condition of JCPenney from Company Man in which he asks The Decline of JCPenney...What Happened?

JCPenney is one of the largest, most well-known retailers to ever exist. Yet today, the 117 year old company is on the verge of going out of business. This video attempts to express the severity of their situation while explaining how it happened.
I've been ragging on Sears' CEO so much for the past year that I didn't pay any attention to JCPenney's CEO and his role that that chain's decline.  He's gone, but it looks like the damage has been done.  I'll be sure to continue following the story of JCPenney, as I promised in January.

Follow over the jump for the top entries last year about the Retail Apocalypse.

I mentioned my focus on Sears and its CEO during the past year, so it should come as no surprise that three of the most read entries about the Retail Apocalypse were about its bankruptcy.  I begin with the 10th most read entry during the eighth year of this blog, Part 1 of Sears, a tale of the retail apocalypse from June 2, 2018 with 5928 raw page views as of March 20, 2019.  I shared this entry at the Coffee Party USA Facebook page at 9:00 P.M. on June 2, 2018.  It earned 2229 page views in the first two hours after being shared and ~5000 in the first 24 hours.  It helped earn the blog 1691 page views the hour it was shared and 6932 the day it was shared.  It was the second most read entry during June 2018 and the most read actually posted that month with 5769 default and 5790 raw page views by the end of the month.

The next entry in the series was the 15th most read post of the last blogging year, Part 2 of Sears, a tale of the retail apocalypse from June 4, 2018 with 3676 total raw page views.  I shared this entry at the Coffee Party USA Facebook page at 9:00 P.M. on June 4, 2018.  It had 56 default page views before being shared.  It earned ~1500 page views in the first two hours after being shared and ~3100 in the first 24 hours.  It helped earn the blog 980 page views the hour it was shared and 3568 the day it was shared.  It was the fourth most read entry overall for June 2018 and the third most read actually posting during the month with 3551 default and 3593 raw page views.

I'm skipping all the way down to the 40th most read entry posted during the eighth year of the blog and the 43rd most read overall,  Part 4 of Sears, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse from October 12, 2018 with 1955 raw page views.  It was also the second most read entry during October 2018 with 1861 default and 1933 raw page views.

Business Insider provided a graphic listing how many retail chains were closing stores, providing a good overview in Business Insider on stores closing in the Retail Apocalypse from June 13, 2018.  It was the 18th most read entry with 3614 raw page views.  It was also the most commented on entry of the past year with 26 comments, 14 during July 2018 for most commented during that month.  The entry was the eighth most read entry posted during June 2018 with 203 raw page views because Infidel 753 shared the link at his blog.  It earned 2497 page views in the first 24 hours after being shared at the Coffee Party USA Facebook page in July.  It axed out at 3325 default and 3361 raw page views on July 12, 2018, ending July 2018 with 3133 default page views.

The entry that started my interest in the Retail Apocalypse was Vox on America's dying malls as failed third spaces from April 9, 2018.  It earned 3570 total raw page views to rank 19th among all entries last year.  Before being shared at the Coffee Party USA Facebook page at 9:00 P.M. on May 31, 2018, this entry had 236 raw page views.  It earned 1964 page views in the first two hours after being shared and ~2700 in the first 24 hours.  It helped earn the blog 1640 page views the hour it was shared and 4969 the day it was shared.  It ended June 2018 with 3197 default page views to place it sixth overall for the month.

This retrospective would be incomplete without mentioning Dan Bell's Dead Mall series, which I did in Business Insider on dead malls in the Retail Apocalypse with assistance from Dan Bell and Radiohead from June 12, 2018.  It was the 21st most read entry of last year with 3297 total raw page views.  It earned 2356 page views in the first 24 hours after being shared at the Coffee Party USA Facebook page.  The post maxed out at 3054 default and 3104 raw page views on July 11, 2018, ending July 2018 with 2835 raw page views during the month.

The other big story of the Retail Apocalypse besides the Sears Holdings bankruptcy was the death of Toys R Us.  I began covering that in Toys R Us closing down and Kmart may follow from April 10, 2018.  It ended the year as the 24th most read entry with 2882 total raw page views.  It had two episodes of popularity.  First, Infidel753 shared the link, although most of the page views came from other people's Facebook shares and web searches before that happened.  It ended April 2018 with 632 default and 654 raw page views to be the seventh most read entry posted during the month and the 13th most read overall.  I then shared it at the Coffee Party USA Facebook page at 10:00 P.M. on May 31, 2018, when this entry had 684 raw page views.  It earned ~1100 page views in the first two hours after being shared and ~1800 in the first 24 hours.  It helped earn the blog 1225 page views the hour it was shared and 4969 the day it was shared.  It ended June 2018 with 1975 default page views for the month, ranking it seventh overall for June 2018.

The 29th most read entry during the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News and the 28th most read actually posted last year was Radio Shack, a tale of the retail apocalypse from Company Man and Retail Archeology from July 6, 2018 with 2493 total raw page views.  The entry was the third most read entry during July 2018 and the most read actually posted that month with 2192 default and 2261 raw page views.  It also earned 9 comments, making it the most commented on entry actually posted during July; Radio Shack's former customers were passionate about the chain! It was also among most active on Twitter that month with 2 retweets and 2 likes.

When I wrote that this would be a long entry, I was right.  Eight posts about the Retail Apocalypse made the top 40 from last year, double the next highest this year, four for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.  Wow!

Stand by for the next installment in this series of retrospectives, which will be about a perennial favorite topic of this blog, climate.  Until then, happy online shopping, as people aren't doing as much of it in malls anymore.

Previous posts in this series


  1. And that's not even getting into the demise of Montgomery Ward...

    Monkey Ward was where I had my first job, as a dishwasher in the store cafeteria, when I was in high school in the mid-1970s. When there was such as thing as department stores running a food establishment under their own roofs where workers and even shoppers would sit down and eat burgers, chili, steam table meatloaf 'n mashed potatoes... Nowadays the thought of eating something that DIDN'T come from some brand-name fast food franchise would freak people out. "What do you mean, that it's not a choice from some illuminated plastic signboard menu that's the same in Poughkeepsie as it is in Pocatello? The food might taste weird! Is it even safe?!?"

    Minimum wage of $2.65 an hour. Lots of oddballs and misfits working there, not cookie-cutter or corporatised at ALL. I began to learn to cook there, filling in on the fry line from time to time. We followed menus, but it wasn't the automaton style of food processing of today's Fast Food Nation. A shitty place to labour in many ways, but I reckon it was better than being a human widget in some process-engineered joint like Macca's (the Aussie term for McDonald's) or Hungry Jack's (which is what Burger King is called here, due to copyright issues. Just across the Ditch in New Zealand, though, it's Burger King. Go figure.)

    I'm not penning these musing just to be a nostalgic old fud. The evisceration of venerable chains that your series highlights is part of the trend toward relentless, increasingly fast corporate changes that wind up making things worse. What has replaced Penney's, Sears, etc? Pulling shit off shelves at some Amazon warehouse where employees wear tracking devices that calculate how much time it takes them for every reach of their wrist. People having to get by with two or three side hustles like using their own car to deliver food via Uber Eats. All sorts of crappified work that's not enough to pay for life, and which might vanish in a second. Malls, which at least were a place for people to congregate and have a shared cultural experience (for all their plasticised hyper-commerciality) are now supplanted by lonely "Bowling Alone" figures ordering junk from the light of a glowing screen in their isolated households...

    Existence is getting worse in so many ways, due to the same trends that smashed the stores you and your sources cite. I'm not rising to the defence of the buggy whip industry. There were problems with massive department store chains, and there are pluses with the profusion of choice the Internet gives. The pace of the change is so fast, though, that people and the socio-cultural environment can't adjust in time.

    Did you ever shake a jar filled with something like granola or mixed nuts, where there are pieces of various sizes and shapes? The big things jolt to the top, but there's a lot of small stuff and dust that falls to the bottom. In the commercial cut-throat world, big'uns like Eddie Lamprey (sic) eel their way up, while little people filter down to the forgotten chaff zone. It's a crime.

    I used to think "The Revolution will be ON! once Amerika has a year in which the 10th Wal-Mart is looted and burned by hangry mobs." But that's not going to happen. Amerikans will die their obese deaths of OxyODespair at the homeless encampments on the fringes of the very stores that have stolen their way of life. They are the True Believers in the Cult of Corporipoff that kills them.

    Rant off! It's a nice Easter Sunday here, I made an outrageous amount of money working a PM shift yesterday at the psych ward on public holiday wage rates in my unionised job, so I'm gonna go enjoy the April autumn sunshine.

    1. Montgomery Ward, I have only mentioned that chain twice, once in passing when quoting Retail Archeology and the other when I wrote about the closure of Northland Mall. I saw how the end of that chain turned into the beginning of the end of that mall.

      $2.65 an hour? I can tell exactly when you were hired, 1978. I started working for Jack in the Box the year before, when the minimum wage was $2.30, so I knew you entered the work force just after I did.

      You aren't alone in realizing we are losing something important, if ersatz, in malls. That seems to be driving the interest in dead malls and the Retail Apocalypse. There is even a genre of music, vaporwave or mallsoft, that is about recapturing the atmosphere of malls as a form of nostalgia.

      As for people rebelling against WalMart, that's only in the upper half of the income distribution and they have their own discount chain, Target. They may not camp out in the parking lots of those places, but I think you're right about what will happen to their customers.

      Since Easter is over where you are, I hope you had a nice one. I'm still enjoying mine here on this side of the planet.

    2. I had a GREAT Easter because I got to work an AM shift at the psych ward in the big-city hospital that's closest to my flat in the central business district of Melbourne (although I still have to catch TWO trams to get there, due to wrinkles in the layout of the tram routes. Still, the first tram I take stops literally in front of the entrance to my building. No need for Kunstler-style "happy motoring" for me!)

      Because I am an on-call worker, not attached to any particular hospital ward, I get a higher rate of pay (as compensation for not getting any sick time or holiday -- "vacation" in American lingo -- hours.) My pay rate is double-time-and-a-half on public holidays, as Easter Monday is here. Thanks, unions! Gross pay for that 8-hour shift Monday is going to be around $750. Even after tax is deducted, and considering an Aussie dollar is worth only ~71⍧ U.S., it's gonna be a fair swack of money. I worked Saturday, too, which was a public holiday in recognition of ANZAC Day, commemorating when the Turks kicked the Aussies'/Kiwis' arses in the WW I invasion of Gallipoli. Saturday base wages are even higher than Monday ones, so with the holiday effect, my gross for that shift is going to be almost $1,000 in the local currency. A far cry from washing dishes at Monkey Wards!

      I might have over-estimated my min-wage salary there, coz I started working in 1975, while in 11th grade. Maybe it was only $2.15 an hour. It was still enough to bit-by-bit repay my parents the $1,000 they loaned me to buy the (used) 1968 Chevelle SS 396 that I drove to work (and street-raced illegally on the weekends.) The wonder of 'rents giving their high-school kid money to purchase a bombed-out hot-rod, after he had already rolled the family station wagon on its roof the year before... But I gave them back every cent (they didn;t charge interest) and I never crashed the Chevelle, because I was paying for it with MY money.

      As for Target, the chain was tried down here and flopped. I liked Target when I used to live in Florida, because it was a decent middle-of-the-economic-scale place to shop. Their product range and pricing was slightly higher-level here, closer to a Sears/Penneys dynamic. As a result, local Targets are foundering like so many chains in the U.S.

    3. I'm glad you had a good Easter at work and earned a lot of money.

      As for ANZAC Day, I have just the song for it: And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. Never mind that I used it for Armistice Day.

      $2.15/hour sounds about right for 1975. Good story about the Chevelle.

      Target flops Down Under while Kmart thrives. Go figure.

    4. If you like "Band Played" then you'll love "I Was Only 19" by an Aussie band called Redgum. (Link is to a Guardian story about the background of the tune; there's a video of it embedded halfway down the article. A very 1980s, pre-MTV style vid with heaps of historic soldier footage.) The song is like "Matilda" set in Vietnam -- poignant, more folk-y than rock-y, about the PTSD from a misguided war -- even has someone getting their legs blown off.

      It never got international prominence the way "Matilda" did. It's SO Aussie, though, with references to Puckapunyal (a large military base in Victoria, the Oz equivalent to Fort Bragg) and "tins of home VB" (Aussies call beer cans "tinnies" and VB is short for Victoria Bitter, a crap, Bud-like beer popular in this state because it's considered the home brand, the way Stroh's (ech!) is for Michiganders.)

      As an aside, the song features some "action verb" Aussie slang that encapsulates one of the things I like about the way they talk here. "Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon..." Down Undahere, you don't just show up to someplace, you "rock up." You don't eat a burger, you "smash it" and then you "skoll" a beer instead of just drinking it. People DO use normal phraseology, but there's this cultural undercurrent of "we're bonzer blokes who do things in exciting ways and must have high-impact words to describe them!" In some ways, this place is like a mob of enthusiastic 13-year-olds.

      Personally, I favour the original version of Matilda by an Aussie folk singer named Eric Bogle. Long before I ever contemplated leaving the U.S., I somehow found a copy of that LP ("Scraps of Paper") in some cutout bin in America. I dive into music the way you do with movies. That song was one of many factors that moulded my pro-Aussie prejudice of the people here being tough yet still-humanistic folks. They're not perfect by any means; lots of dickheads here as in any country, but at least the official societal ideology is that everyone should be decent folks, the way that the U.S. was trying to be in the 1970s under Carter, before Reagan/Thatcherism came along to glorify greedselfishness.

    5. You were right about "I Was Only 19." I did like it. It reminded me of something that I had seen when I was a kid, that the Australians were fighting alongside the U.S. in Vietnam. That's something I'm sure most Americans have forgotten or never knew. It's also another example of my readers having good musical taste. Someone else recommended "Put a Woman in Charge" and I loved it!

      As for Stroh's being considered the home brand here in Michigan, that's something that only the people who lived here before I did 30 years ago still do. The brewery in Detroit closed in 1985. The brewery in Los Angeles, which I could see from where I used to work, lasted five years longer. As for which beer the locals consider the home brand now, I'd say Bell's with Founders being its main competitor for the title. Either is better than Stroh's.

      My wife and I watched the first season of the ABC (both ABC's Australian and American) series "Harrow" and we had a little trouble understanding the Aussies sometimes because of the combination of accent and vocabulary. We didn't have any trouble with the lead, who is a Welshman who speaks RP. I guess we're more used to that dialect.

      I thought I had the Bogle version embedded. Thanks for pointing out I don't. I'm not changing the video on the post I linked to, but if I ever use the song again, I'll be sure to find the Bogle version.

      BTW, Australia is on my bucket list. If my wife and I ever get down there, I'll ask if we can look you up.

    6. "If my wife and I ever get down there, I'll ask if we can look you up."

      Sure thing! I live in Melbourne, which isn't as picturesque as Sydney, but I reckon it's cooler in a cultural sense and easier to get around in than sprawl city. Like Seattle vs. L.A. Except nobody ever comes to Australia. Too damn far away. Aussies used to talk about "the tyranny of distance" but the way the world is going, I call it "the security of..."

      Your Stroh's comment made me reflect that -- fark! -- it's been 35 years since I lived in da Yoo Pee (L'Anse, Calumet and Manistique, 1981-1984). I sometimes look back on my life and think "wow, I sure have been to some places and done some things. How did I pull that off?"

    7. I get worried about the distance, although I flew to Japan from California, so I know what a long plane ride is like. It's become worse because of my health issues. In addition to my diabetes, I also have Grave's Disease and I got a deep vein thrombosis two years ago from flying. I've since been cleared to fly, but a 12-hour flight worries me.

      Melbourne sounds lovely. As for being isolated, it could be worse. You could live in Perth!

      Thanks for reminding me that you used to live in Michigan, too. What brought you here?

    8. A 12-hour flight? That would barely get you to New Zealand! (Which is a lovely place. But it's still another 3 hours to the east coast of Australia from there. One time when the (now-ex) wife and I were whingeing about the length of the flight to Europe (~26 hours, including transit time in the Singapore airport) we met a woman from En Zed who pointed out politely (Kiwis have such good manners, unless they're drunken rugby fans) that she had to fly for several hours before she could even get to where we started.

      Trips to Oz are definitely not good if you're a DVT risk. You're looking at 16 hours. Maybe less if you fly from L.A. I always fly into Vancouver, because I despise the "TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!" Amerkian fascist airport security theatre so much. No lie -- I fly to YVR, then jet across to Toronto or Montreal and hire a car to drive to visit family in Maryland. It's the principle of the thing. I do a lot of stuff based on principle, even though it costs more and takes more time. I caught Kunstler speaking at a bookstore in Saratoga Springs doing that one time when one of his book promo tours coincided with my visit to North America.

    9. As to how I got to the U.P.: when I graduated from the University of Maryland with a journalism degree in 1981, I didn't have the intern/insider connections to line up a newspaper job with any decent-sized daily. Plus, I had a mind to ramble. So I sent out applications to a number of smaller papers in the Midwest, an area I had never visited. Then I set out from where I lived near Washington, D.C. on my Honda 350 motorcycle, a bike that was ridiculously inadequate for a cross-crountry trip. But I was game! (Too bad the bike died at the end of the trip.) Went through Ohio, up the oven mitt, over the Mighty Mackinac Bridge, across the Yoop, down Wisconsin, through Chicago, Indiana and back across the Appalachians. Lotsa bugs in my teeth, mate.

      The weekly paper in L'Anse was (and still is -- I went back to visit in 2013) owned by an eccentric wealthy guy whose ambition was to win prizes in competitions for good journalism. He liked my gung-ho newsman's spirit and hired me ($150 a week to start, which was shit money even in 1981.) But he let us do good writing. I later went on to a smaller newspaper he started on the Keeweenaw Peninsula (terrible business decision by the boss; he lost tonnes of money on it). It was too frickin' snowy up there for me, so I did a stint as a one-man news reporter/editor at the weekly in Manistique for a while. Too much work, and the lady publisher was a C-U-Next-Tuesday (as they say in Oz.) Then it was off to a twice-weekly in Cody, Wyoming... Ah, for the days when one could be an itinerant journo and explore America that way. Back when newspapers were a thing.

      I'd be doing that still, except my last job with the Tampa Tribune evaporated when they closed my bureau office in a small but fantastically corrupt town in the swampy Florida interior in 1991. No news jobs in the recession that followed Gulf War 1, so I had to retrain for something. Hence, nursing. The humble profession of wiping peoples' bums and sticking syringes in them has allowed me to live literally across the world, whereas the glam job of scribe never would have. (I was never a big-time writer.)

    10. Oh, my, looks like I really need to see a hematologist about my DVT risk. Otherwise, I'll have to cross Australia off my bucket list without visiting. That, or island hop from California to Hawaii to New Zealand to Australia and back.

      Yeah, security theater it is. I'll have to get a real ID license this year or I won't be able to fly starting in October of next year.

      Thanks for the story about your brief career in journalism. I hadn't read that before. And, yes, nursing is a lot more in demand. That's my ex-wife's profession, so I know it can travel anywhere.