On Friday, after Prime and I hit city hall to vote, I managed to take a look around my local Shopko. It’s pretty picked over; although there is some merchandise on the shelves and pegs, it isn’t a lot. Granted, this Shopko was among the first round of store closings, so most of the merchandise has been sold. But to walk inside the store, to see the shelves, filled with gaping holes, to see the signs that proclaim this store is closing, is one of the saddest things I have ever seen.
It’s another gap in the retail landscape that may or may not be filled. It’s one less store to peruse for Transformers. It’s yet another loss in the retail sector.
To be perfectly honest, this is nothing new; I have wispy memories of holding items while standing in line at a dying discount store; it may have been a Woolworths, but I was so young that I can’t be absolutely sure.
That building remained fallow for a while, then it became a Roses, which eventually closed and gave way to a Hill’s/Ames. As to what may be in that spot today, I don’t know; Ames went under after I had moved to Wisconsin. But in the span of two decades, it changed hands more than once. Neither venture was successful.
I thought things were difficult in the 1990s, when Walmart began to drive companies out of business. But now we have Amazon. If you don’t want to go hunting for a particular Transformer, you don’t have to; just order it online. Getting exclusives and foreign figures has never been easier. The Internet has been a real game changer.
But on the other hand, there are times I miss the thrill of the hunt, if you will.
Prime tells stories of how he, in his “shitty” Ford Courier, went on a Beast Wars hunt in the middle of a snowstorm. I myself had a number of successful hunts; I had a designated route that I biked at least once a week. Some days it was about the figures. Other days, it was simply to get out of the house and not deal with the dogs. (If that sounds familiar, it should; our friend, Shawn would do the same thing, only to avoid his parents.)
When Prime and I began chatting over email, the stories about those hunts–failed and successful–were swapped with gusto. They became a sort of exercise in bonding; only action figure collectors can understand the weight of those hunts. In the ’90s, this was our only option, so spotting a short packed figure “in the wild” could be huge.
Now, most of the places where I frequented are gone. The places that have become familiar in Wisconsin are thinning out, closing or going bankrupt due to competition from Walmart and Amazon. I don’t know how I feel about it.
Change is the only constant, it seems. In a number of years, even Walmart and Amazon may be gone. It’s impossible to say. And somewhere, someone else will be waxing nostalgic over that loss.