Not too long ago my daughter needed some retail therapy. She works part time, had just gotten paid, and she could hear the stores calling her. The mall was the last place I wanted to be on the weekend, but I was a teenage girl once, and I knew exactly how she felt. In the absence of any BFFs, I was her default shopping partner. Now it was me, not the teenager, with the big sighs and eye rolls.
The stores my daughter frequents don’t have a spot for me to sit while she hunts and gathers. The establishment that got most of her paycheck takes up two floors, and while it has an escalator, I just don’t want to run willy-nilly trying to keep up with her. Even with the requisite coffee stop (at the opposite end of the mall), I find I tire easily when there is nothing in the store that interests me.
On the other hand, the large department store that sells clothes I would actually wear has a sitting area outside the fitting rooms. Sometimes I see long-suffering husbands there, with their technology, to ride out the costume changes. That is a brilliant use of space and I really don’t know why other stores haven’t thought of it. Just imagine the impact in the junior department—put the football game on and dads will let their daughters shop without a care.
I also find many stores to be insensitive to the needs of people who can’t handle the sprawl of the big-box layout, or even the distance between the mall’s anchor stores. One end of the mall has the shoes, the other end, the candles. I realize that is intentional, to catch the impulse buyers, but at what cost to those who aren’t able or willing to put in the miles? I’d like to see more sitting areas (most malls do have a few scattered around), motorized scooters or shopping carts to lean on. My local Kohl’s has the right idea with carts the perfect size to wheel into the clearance corner, but it has no place to sit. Target offers enormous carts and scooters. Macy’s has sitting areas but no carts. I have rented carts from the centrally located mall service desk, but the stores aren’t set up for them and it’s hard to maneuver around the racks. Bring back the old five-and-dimes that had a lunch counter, I say!
My mother was an avid shopper, right up to the end. When I noticed she was less willing to accompany me, I knew something was amiss. It turned out that she needed a little help to traverse the square footage of the local shopping venues. She had always been willing to take my girls out in their stroller and I realized that she relied on the extra support the device gave her while walking. So I searched out stores that offered carts, and sometimes we’d even bring the stroller just for coats or parcels (and Mom’s confidence).
Shops make many accommodations for those with physical impairments. I wish architects and designers would remember there are other unmet needs when it comes to midlife shoppers. It’s just good business to look beyond youthful clothes and youthful energy. As for me, my post-retail therapy may necessitate a foot massage and a large cup of tea.