June 2, 2009

My daughter and I attended the opening of Forever 21, a new clothing store for teens and young adults in Cape Cod Mall, and I realized yet again that shopping is a key form of entertainment, especially for teens and young adults.

We got there a couple of minutes before 10 AM for the 10 AM opening. Forever 21 had announced it would be giving out gift cards worth $20 and up to the first 200 customers. More than 200 customers were eagerly lined up in front of the main door. It was a sight to behold, especially in these times of recession and budget tightening.

Forever 21 turns out to be a good place to shop in times of recession. The clothing is very inexpensive; the shirt (made in the USA, oddly enough) that my daughter bought with the gift card I managed to obtain by going in through the non-main door, was only $15 and some change. I bought a set of four little notebooks for $2.80. As a reporter, I am always in need of little notebooks.

It is a happy store, with gaily colored clothing and accessories, and I might shop there myself, if I were a little closer to 21. Much of the clothing looked like it could have been sold in those little boutiques in Georgetown (in Washington DC) during the late 60s and early 70s. Peasant blouses, frilly stuff, lots of color, and designs verging on the psychedelic. (It is a trend all over I guess–when I checked out the jewelry department in Macy’s afterwards, they had a number of peace symbol bracelets and necklaces.)

To accompany the shopping frenzy (there were long lines for the changing rooms and for purchases), there was a DJ blaring out hip hop music, deafening, at times, yet toe-tappable. And, as I was waiting in line, tapping my toe to the hip hop music (which I do not ordinarily find myself compelled to listen to), I noticed that no one else was tapping her or his toes. They seemed totally oblivious to the music, such as it was. It had become just background noise, like Musak. But much, much louder.

It is interesting, as we move into the hectic summer entertainment season to realize that a lot of our summer entertainment offerings are made to accompany shopping of one form or another. Musicians play in the background at art fairs, where people come to buy arts and crafts. Malls hire musicians and other entertainers to perform, to entice potential customers to the malls, and stores for teens and young adults blast out music. Even at some gas stations, you get a dose of high-volume rock music when you get out of your car to fill up.

Does loud music draw people into stores? Does it make them buy more? Does it just identify the store as a place where cool stuff can be found? I don’t know. Last year, there was a study done that showed that loud music in bars encouraged people to drink more. You can’t talk, so you drink. Alternatively, loud music stimulates and arouses, so you drink.

But I haven’t seen anything about loud music being economically profitable for clothing stores or gas station. The hearing aid salespeople should benefit, though, down the road

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