Notes On The Post-Holiday Retail Landscape

Note: The above picture was taken while driving down Sunrise Highway in Massapequa, N.Y., yesterday. I swear. If only I’d looked inside to see if any inventory was still there, moulding over after two years of inactivity…

On Friday night, a friend and I were at my parents’ local mall, and as often happens with me, the conversation turned to music; specifically, country artist Eric Church, and his 2006 album Sinners Like Me. “I’d like to hear that album,” my pal said, “and I bet my dad would like it too. Do you think there’s anyplace in the mall where we can pick it up?”

Since the album in question wasn’t one that would appeal to the Twilight-and-Tripp crowd, the likelihood of it being in stock at Hot Topic, the one non-big-box store in the mall that hawked music of the non-videogame variety, was unlikely. (Although the Hot Topic in question did have a vinyl picture version of Danzig that proved almost too tempting.) The only choice: Target, which did not have the album on its ransacked shelves thanks to its coming out in 2006, but which did have a whole new slew of those Sony MusicPass cards for albums like Leona Lewis’ Spirit and Jessica Simpson’s attempt at country crossover. They were half-hidden behind a concrete piling; if one wanted to grab a copy of Carrie Underwood’s Carnival Ride one would have to crouch down and maneuver her hand behind the concrete.

It was 8:30 p.m. on a post-holiday Friday night in the suburbs, which meant that our options were somewhat limited. Circuit City? Probably not. Best Buy? Too far. So we piled in the car and headed to the nearest Borders, which—poetry alert!—had problems with the lights on its sign that resulted in the “m,” “u,” “s,” and “i” in “Music” being unlit. We were greeted by a bunch of boxes filled with $5.99 books, and the music section was all the way in the back (a pattern for 2008); the Eric Church album was in stock, but it cost $18.99. “Forget it,” my friend said, “I’ll just get it on Amazon MP3 and burn it later.”

It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that some people reported not receiving any music for Christmas for the first time in years; I didn’t get any, although my sister did buy me one of those 20Q balls that was music-themed. (And my mom got a couple of CDs, too.) And given that the few remaining stores that just sell music are facing what business types like to call “challenges” in the current blighted climate, maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising that an impulse acquisition is nigh-impossible for those who aren’t connected to computers.

Did you get any music as part of your holiday haul? Or pick over the carcasses of any dying stores? Are there any malls out there that still even have stores devoted to music, or is that concept—like Record World and Sam Goody—a vestige of another time?