Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Window shopping: It doesn't cost to look!

The lovely Miss Wendy and I were out and about recently, trying to stay cool and looking for something cheap and fun to do in our little corner of the world. We ended up at one of the mega-malls in the area and wasted an hour or so looking at stuff we didn’t need and couldn’t afford.

While Wendy priced a few rings at Tiffany’s, I sauntered over to Nordstrom to check out the shoes. I recall when the department store first entered the Atlanta market; there was much great cheer and celebration. Nordstrom, its marketing department and loyalists would have you believe, was a shopping paradise, a venue filled with all manner of delightful goods for upscale shoppers and their families.

The praise seemed odd since the city was already home to Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales. Rich’s, the grande dame of Atlanta retailers in the Land of Cotton, was still of this world, but slowly sinking in a sea of red ink.

Nordstrom offered much the same merchandise as the other retailers here with one exception. They had an expansive shoe department that stretched across the first floor, filled with an assortment of familiar names and a few upscale brands that had never made it this far south – or so it seemed at the time. All this makes sense when you learn that Nordstrom was initially a shoe retailer. It wasn’t until the early 1960s – about six decades after it was founded – that the company became a full-fledged department store and began selling clothing, accessories, handbags, jewelry, cosmetics and fragrances.

But I digress. I was looking for shoes. Truth to tell, I was actually just looking. I milled around a bit, felt my way around the buttery softness and fresh, leathery tang of well made footwear before coming across a display of casual moccasins that caught my attention.

The shoes were a pricey blend of expensive and more expensive; brands – Cole Haan, Johnson and Murphy, Ecco – that begin around $100 and quickly scoot higher. There was one particular loafer that stood out, a casual slip on that had great, ah, curb appeal; was light and pliable, yet felt sturdy when I took it for a test drive around the display stand.

I normally buy shoes at discount centers – Bass, Docker, Bostonian. But there was something awfully sweet about the loafer I was trying out. Then I glanced at the price and my day dream turned to a nightmare! The shoe I was holding cost $180. Unfortunately, its mate also costs the same amount. The Italian-made moccasin – it’s sold under the name Hamlin – features a braided lasso bit and rubber grips for added traction and goes for about $360; a little rich for my tootsies.

A nearby customer, meanwhile, didn’t flinch when asking the sales clerk if the store offered the shoes in both black and brown. They do, and the smiling clerk was more than happy to fetch the loafers and bag them when the man said he, ah, needed both colors!

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