Column: Shopping remains America’s pastime amid shutdown

Megan Armstrong San Antonio News

Americans coming of age during the 1980s have been hitting the stores during hard times since iron-on T-shirts were a must-have.

We’ve spent decades using retail therapy to help us feel better about everything.

Big fight with your best friend? It’s nothing a trip to the record store couldn’t fix. Things aren’t going well at school? Those Kaepas at the clearance rack will make everything feel better.

Or the Nike Airs. Or the stone-washed jeans. Or the Hootie and the Blowfish CDs. Or the big coffee cups with the “Friends” logo. The stuff at the stores has always been there for you, when the rain starts to fall.

But not when there’s a pandemic. At least not any place with a fitting room or a place to wash your hands.

Estamos bien chiflados, because ever since the city has been on lockdown, there have been a lot of people wondering if we’d ever be able to participate in much-needed retail therapy, Just when we need the hope that comes from bringing home a new comforter set or a new pair of boots, the stores all closed.

It’s not that we figured out a new way to cope. Those who have found happiness at the home goods store or the cosmetic counter have just taken their shopping online.

Reports show that since the nation went on lockdown in mid-March, sales have spiked for websites such as Wayfair and Chewy, sites that specialize in sending consumers nice things that make life at home a little more fun. And let’s not forget Amazon, the outfit that delivers more goods to your front door than a new boyfriend que queire quedar bien with your sister.

This is good, because the future doesn’t look so good for brick-and-mortar stores, especially those giants at the end of the mall. Stores such as Macy’s have been sitting on tons of merchandise while we’ve been sitting at home or waiting in line for toilet paper. Retail sales dropped by 50 percent during March, and April is going to look worse.

Those pretty spring dresses that went on the floor long before Easter Sunday? Alli están, todavia. The sandals are still there, too — although they’ve been marked down online, so the chances are good que ya te las ganaron. Y si no, they might turn up at Ross.

But wait a minute. The discount chains don’t have websites, so you’ll have to put on your mascarita if you’re going treasure hunting once the stores let you in. It’s going to be interesting how the stores manage social distancing once the doors open for business again.

And it’s going to be interesting to see how we manage.

One thing we know for sure is that, de una manera o otra, we’ll be spending money again as soon as we have the chance.

We’re consumer-driven Americans. And that’s a hard habit to break.

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