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Saturday, January 23rd 2016

8:49 AM

A Sad Day in the Neighborhood: The Closing of Walmart

   A day rarely passes when someone doesn't compliment me on how well I'm dressed. In a city that has the potential for great style, but at times can miss the mark due to conformity and trendiness, I find that miraculous because of my status in life. The facts are: (1) I'm an African-American female, of a certain age, who rarely sees someone like myself in the media; (2) I live on a budget and show accordingly; and (3) I earned a B.A. in Fashion Merchandising from CSULA because I couldn't afford FIDM and wanted a liberal arts education. Still I've learned how to work with the retail and fashion opportunities I've been given whether it's "Daniel Freeman Thrift Auxillary" in Inglewood, California or "Baldwin Hills Mall". 

   Despite the wish of most retailers I'm not so brand loyal that I exclusively shop at one store, so if I'm in Mar Vista I could shop at "Council Thrift Store" or "Mitsuwa Marketplace" and if I'm in Culver City I could shop at "Ross" or "Goodwill Industries Thrift Store". Lately I've been curious about where the people in the "Baldwin Hills Mall" community shop, so when I've taken shopping field trips up there, I've stopped in at "Walmart", "Sear's", "Forever 21", "Claire's", "Macy's" and "Pink Memories". 

   While I personally prefer "Forever 21", "Macy's", "T.J. Maxx" and "Pink Memories", the day I went into "Walmart" I needed to buy a small sketch pad to practice my fashion illustrations with and I was amazed at the selection of arts and crafts items they had among other things. I was also impressed that thee store was full of eager consumers patiently waiting in long lines to be wrung up.

   So when my mother told me that the "Walmart" at "Baldwin Hills Mall" was closing, and I saw the yellow and black "Store Closed" sign out of a bus window I was suddenly consumed with sadness and dread over the loss of a major retailer in a minority community. While a number of issues arise over the closure of the store the suspicion of a demand for higher wages by store employees during a struggling economy sticks in my mind as the reason.

   I can understand employees wanting higher wages, but when I compare how hard I worked in retail at "The Broadway", "Robinson's", "Clothestime" and other stores, for less than $10 an hour, while studying Fashion Merchandising I'm shocked that its an issue. Not only did I learn everything about the business from salesmanship to inventory and displays I also was required to dress appropriately while doing it. When I shop today I'm met with sales clerks in unattractive uniforms with no fashion sense or imagination in an industry that's become less diverse, more impersonal, less creative and more conformist despite the plethora of talented designers and skilled laborers trying to work within the retail industry.

   The closing of "Walmart" also proves the industry's become more resistant to embracing a community where some of its citizens are supporting stores with their dollars and their presence. Sadly the ones who put personal issues and a paycheck ahead of the excellent workmanship and professionalism to keep it thriving make the closure a crucial turning point I hope we all learn from and transform into a better future. After all, a low-paying job and convenience in a tough world is better than nothing at all. 

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