They’re calling to us: the vacant retail spaces of America, crying out to be filled. You see them every day. Whether you live in Atlanta or Cedar Rapids or Silver City, they line the streets, calling for attention. Shuttered by the recession, abandoned as part of a merger that made them redundant, or crushed by the greed, stupidity or cluelessness of their former inhabitants, they’re waiting, waiting. They may be small store-fronts in a neighborhood strip mall serving an area that simply did not require so many nail parlors (how many can we possibly need, anyway?), or sprawling department stores, emptied because Corporation A bought Corporation B, and, well, there’s only room in this town for one of us, podner; don’t let the sun set on you here. The ordinary churn of fashion or fad doomed some of them, while the economy’s roundhouse right to expendable income has eliminated many more: scrapbooking shops, high-end workout equipment, bowling supplies, independent bookstores (thanks, Amazon), neighborhood hardware stores or grocery stores or neighborhood anything, for that matter; all plowed under in the tilling of the fields of capitalism.
The Entrepreneur in us wants to answer, “I’m here! I’m coming! I’ll fill that space with ….” Hmm… what to fill it with?
We could start small, get a little shop in a promising, uptrending part of town, and probably cut a pretty good deal with a landlord eager to generate any income out of a place that may have been empty for 18 months, and little prospect of filling it soon. But small dreams are for small people. We are the nation of Carnegie, of John Cash “JC” Penney, of — yes — Sam Walton. We are going to start big and go MEGA.
I’ve already located the store:
Vacated last year when one department store chain devoured another. Located on a very busy thoroughfare in the South Bay of LA, in an intensely developed retail area, across Hawthorne Blvd. from a giant mall (at one time the largest indoor mall in the United States). Tens of thousands of cars pass every day. Plenty of parking. Easy access controlled by stop lights. Other thriving businesses already occupy the rest of the property. All we need is to fill it with stuff and sell, sell, sell! We’ll be rich. We’ll be tycoons. We’ll get invited to the Playboy Mansion and to what’s-his-name’s gig up at Squaw Valley every year. Concepts? You bet. Here we go.
This is a cinch. In a phrase, Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur toys, models, sheets, towels. We’ll have a real Tyrannosaurus skeleton mounted in the entrance lobby. We’ll have dinosaur fossils, fossil footprints, blow-up polyethylene dinosaurs, dinosaur-shaped cookie cutters, dinosaur stickers. Dinosaur rides and games and an interactive Dinosaur arcade. Halloween? You won’t be able to get near the place without a helicopter! If you want Dino, we are Fine-O.
Okay, so limited appeal, perhaps. Might not hit our revenue targets for some time. I know a lot of you who are reading this blog and I know what you’re thinking and NO, we can’t do a BOOKSTORE. Have you been paying attention lately? Sheesh. Bookstores? NO. And we can’t do a MEGA-bookstore because there’s THIS PLACE up in Portland, Oregon that kind of has a corner on that idea. I’m not even certain that Los Angeles has as many readers as Portland. Besides, we’d have to find fifty or a hundred or 500 or however many people Powell’s has to actually run the place with the incredible service you get there, so forget it.
HOWEVER, here’s an idea.
Scripts ARE the one thing that Angelenos DO read. We’ll be open 24×7. Production on the fritz? Your Producer just left town with your property to produce in Albania? Last-minute doubts about whether or not you really have the right script to pitch the next morning, now that you have breakfast lined up with Spielberg? No problemo. Drop into Script City any time, day or night. Browse our vast holding, the largest collection of unread scripts ever assembled outside of a McCain/Palin briefing room. Row after row of shelves groaning with stacks of scripts held together by those cute little brass brads. Plus, you never know who you’ll run into poking around in the comedies. Is that … Woody over there?
Powell’s says they buy 3,000 used books a day there on Burnside. We’ll be getting scripts from writers, too, although, of course, there’s no money up-front; there’s NEVER any up-front money in L.A., but you scriptwriters will get a piece of the Net. TRUST US.
Scripts! We sell ’em by the pound. Or, take as many as you like, FREE. Just sign our no-muss, no-fuss agreement giving us a piece of the gross of any produced movie, and never mind that small print. It’s just a bunch of pro forma, pro bono, pro lawyer stuff. All our associates are guaranteed to be out-of-work scriptwriters (the only kind there is), ready to assist you.
Okay, so a little fanciful. Somewhat. I’ve saved the REAL idea for last. I mean, this is it. Retail Nirvana! This is an idea so simple, so pure, and yet so powerful, that within hours of my publishing this, I predict that you will see a frenzy in the retailing world as the powers who SHOULD have thought of it will break out in fistfights as they vie for new footage and frontage to put this idea into practice. The economy not only of this country but of every country in the world will recover within months. The Fed will be trying to claw dollars back from the stimulus program because their coffers will be brimming over with tax revenue, threatening inflation. NEW nations will be formed, just so that THEY can get a piece of the pie. Capitalism will drive out every other known form of social organization, including in North Korea.
First, the storefront:
Here, we will offer women’s clothing. But we will do it in a radical way so revolutionary that they will be booking charter flights into Torrance Municipal airport from all over the world to accommodate our traffic. We’ll probably have to build our own hotel and restaurant to serve the clientele who will be waiting their turn to be called by number, like in a busy deli.
Here’s the gig: SIZES will offer women’s clothes in real sizes. Not just the mysterious and meaningless 5-6-7-8-9, etc., but slacks with waist sizes and inseam lengths. blouses not just in P-S-M-L but with collar sizes and body lengths and sleeve lengths. DRESSES and skirts with not just those single-number sizes but bust, waist, hip and length sizes.
I tell you now, this idea has been in the head of every woman who ever dragged her male partner out shopping saying, “Look around the men’s department, and I’ll just be a few minutes.” 30 minutes later, guy comes back with an entire new wardrobe,complete with underwear, socks and new wallet, and she’s still looking for a blouse — one — that fits her. SIZES will change all that. Men will BEG their wives and girlfriends to go shopping with them, because the SIZES experience will be so positive, so productive, so soul-satisfying that it will generate waves of good feeling that will fill not just each household with joy, but will propagate throughout the world, engendering a new era of peace and harmony. (Plus we’ll have a special indoor soccer arena and a go-cart track out back to give them something to do, because, for the first time in history, men will be pleased that women’s shopping has turned into women’s purchasing.)
And we’ll be more profitable than any other store simply because we won’t spend most of our time processing returns. Ever been to any women’s department in any store? What are they doing at the counter? Taking back clothes that don’t fit. That and restocking all those items takes up about 89% of all labor in the store. No wonder there’s no one to help you look for something new. They’re all returning stuff. Not the case at SIZES. Stuff will FIT.
I realize this will require an entirely new manufacturing model. Today, the makers of women’s clothes turn out a new blouse, and they make 5 petites, 6 smalls, 10 mediums, 60 larges, and one XL. Then they ship these few items out to random stores. One store gets a couple of petites and 10 larges. Another one gets just the mediums. No wonder no one can find anything. Nope, the manufacturers will have to play our game. And they’ll be glad to do it, because they’ll be selling this stuff, instead of passing it down from Nordstrom’s to Macy’s to Penney’s to T.J. Maxx to Schottensteins and finally to Big Lots.
Actually, we won’t get rich. Anyone can be an investor and join, but after you’ve made back your initial investment, you’ll be limited to some reasonable amount of profit, say, $10 million. After that, you have to give anything else away to good causes.
And once we’ve made enough money with this idea, we’ll do something REALLY radical. We’ll form an airline that — get this — operates to serve PASSENGERS. Yeah, Western Skies Airlines: We Fly PEOPLE.
I tell you, there’s no stopping us.
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© Brad Nixon 2010, 2017