Consumer Culture Wars

Are we in the throes of rampant consumerism? Seems an odd thing for an interior designer to ponder. One would think that would be good for business. But is what’s good for business always the right thing? Yes, if you want to stay in business. No, if that’s all one is concerned about.

In the June 2nd BOSTON GLOBE, they ran a pair of articles on the boom of consumer magazines – Lucky and Dominoe to name two – which showcase products and how to get them. This isn’t your Dad’s “Consumer Reports” – which is about how to select the best dishwasher or microwave. These are about what’s new and trendy – not about what’s best or needed. The companion article is about the growth market in the storage facility industry – to house all the stuff we’ve bought but have no room for. Yikes…

It’s about quantity, not quality, obviously.

Are we using shopping as a drug? Probably. And, given the market glut of off-price stores such as Target, Homegoods and Marshalls – we’re not necessarily always looking to spend top-dollar. It’s part of the thrill of the hunt – something pretty for a good price. Hence the DSW Shoes commercial which compares women shopping for off-price shoes to animals in the wilderness seeking their prey. I’m always slightly offeneded by the commercial – but probably because the truth stings.

We have to get back to a mind-set that quality trumps (no, not you-know-who) quantity. A single beautiful exotic flower is much more beautiful than dozens of mums and carnations. This quantity driven mind-set does nothing to help local businesses, artisans and craftsman, that’s for sure. We hear in the news every day about the glut of Chinese textile imports – clothing, home textiles, etc. We worry about the trade imbalance. Yet we continue to shop at Walmart and Target. We cluck over jobs sent overseas – yet continue to purchase goods made “over there”.

So, getting back to my business – yes, the “quantity consumer” mentality is bad for business. GIve me a client who wants quality and is willing to have less stuff to achieve it. Or who is willing to wait to save their money for it. These are people who will value the work of local seamstresses and decorative painters, sculpters and cabinet makers. They will value creativity and quality – timelessness and true beauty. And, they spend their money locally – with people who will then re-spend that money locally, and so on…

Something to ponder.
©2005 Linda Merrill

xoxo Linda

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