The Revenge of US Merchandise
And I keep reading story after story about Retail Giants getting killed at the bottom line in urban areas by shoplifters.
I was maybe 7 or 8 years old and my favorite store was U.S. Merchandise. We didn't go there very often, it wasn't near our house, but it was near my grandparents' home.
What made U.S. Merchandise so cool? Everyone has shopped at K Mart, Sears, Target, or WalMart in their lives, depending on their age. The business model at any one of the stores mentioned above was pretty simple: Walk In, Buy Stuff.
Not at U.S. Merchandise. There was aisle after aisle of display models. Let's use a blender for an example. You would walk down the housewares aisle and look at all of the options that were on the shelves. You would pick the type of blender that you liked, then there would be a stack of tickets in front of the said blender. You would then take that ticket to the front register. At the register, you would pay for the blender, then some invisible workers would get the order on the second floor.
The upstairs worker would find the matching item, then slide the product down the rollers to the register. You would wait for your purchase by the register for a minute or two...
Or sometimes 10.
You had 20 tickets? You might as well have pitched a tent by the register.
U.S. Merchandise was busy? You might as well have brought your lunch for the wait.
You starting to see the problem with the business model now? But Kid Fred was all about watching that blender getting slid down the rollers. I am sure Fred's Mom was thinking "we should have just gone to K Mart."
Every once in a while, U.S. Merchandise would run out of a product and you'd be able to buy the floor model at a great discount. That worked out nicely for Fred's Mom, but I got no roller action.
Could the U.S. Merchandise Model work for retailers today that are plagued by theft? Of course it could, discount retailers would just have to invest time, manpower, and logistics into making it work...
Why are you laughing?
Editor's Note: I know I didn't dream about U.S. Merchandise, my grandparents actually had a U.S. Merchandise sticker on one of their tray tables. But when I googled the store, I couldn't find any details about its existence on the internet. I believe the store was a subsidiary of Service Merchandise. "The catalog showroom approach to retailing...reduced the risk of merchandise theft."