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May 28, 2008

Patriotic Shopping?

Bagamerican Well, here's something I didn't know about Lord & Taylor:

Ever since the Iran Hostage Crisis began in 1979, Lord & Taylor has opened each and every shopping day by playing the Star Spangled Banner, reports James Barron in the New York Times (5/26/08). The tradition began with then-chairman Joseph E. Brooks, who ordered the anthem played because, as he said at the time, "with all its problems, this is still the greatest country in the world." Joseph's idea outlasted his tenure at Lord & Taylor (he resigned when L&T was sold in 1986) and shows no signs of going away, even as the retailer undergoes "re-branding and re-imaging" to make "it relevant for today," as spokesperson La Velle Olexa puts it.

Nancy F. Koehn, a retail historian at Harvard Business School, says that by keeping the anthem, Lord & Taylor is "keeping its core attributes." She also says that the daily ritual is a reminder of a time when shopping at department stores was a day-long event. "To stand for the national anthem in a department store ... is to step briefly back into a moment when things seemed simpler and more straightforward and more firmly rooted than they are now, in the sense that people say 'I remember that' and 'I'm looking for that footing today.'"

. . . Some people stand, while others sit; some sing along while others do not. For at least one shopper, the message was clear. As the final note was played she stage-whispered, "'Play ball'" and headed for the aisles.

(From Reveries)

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