TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: New Monopoly in Dept Stores; Federated and May to Merge

Re: New Monopoly in Dept Stores; Federated and May to Merge

Bob Goudreau (BobGoudreau@withheld)
Mon, 7 Mar 2005 22:59:42 -0500

[Please remove my email address.]

Lisa Hancock wrote:

>> More to the point, the Bell system monopoly was actually sanctioned by
>> the government. No analogous situation has ever existed in US
>> retail, thankfully.

> I don't know of anything major, but Pennsylvania's liquor stores (wine
> and hard stuff) were and remain the sole source of that for within
> Pennsylvania.

Yes, we have a similar setup here in NC: state Alcoholic Beverage
Commissions are the only sellers of hard liquor (though not beer and
wine). But as you mentioned in an earlier Digest, the repeal of
Prohibition gave states special and unique constitutional powers with
respect to alcohol.

> At the end of WW II the govt had a monopoly on reactor by-products
> used for medical and physics research.

I'm having a little trouble thinking of reactor by-products as retail
items that would be bought by consumers :-). I was thinking more
along the lines of the experience my wife's East German-born
sister-in-law (who unfortunately passed away two weeks ago) had when
she escaped the iron curtain in the early 1980s and first encountered
a West German retail store, with its exhilarating but confusing array
of choices, so very different from the limited selection of crappy
products available in the state-run retail outlets of East Germany.

> As I said, the railroads were FORBIDDEN by the govt to do what you
> suggest, and ORDERED to divest what things they had done.

I think you missed my point. They could have chosen to divest the
entire regulated railroad business instead (in the way that AT&T chose
to give up the local telco business in the early 1980s), leaving the
now-separate rump company to concentrate exclusively on rail while the
new successor company (which would have purchased the non-rail assets)
chased the newer markets. Instead, the execs chose to stay with the
rump themselves. They bet on the wrong pony. Of course, sometimes
the ho-hum legacy business turns out to be the winning horse after
all. It now looks like that's what happened with AT&T; the Baby Bells
seem to have been the winning choice there, while AT&T's grandiose
plans to make money in the computer business came to naught (twice!).

>> People just don't particularly need department stores any more in
>> order to purchase their clothes and furnishings. They can buy their
>> clothes and furnishings elsewhere, and they increasingly are doing so,
>> which is why the department store chains are having so much trouble in
>> the first place.

> I would be curious: take men's dress suits. What is the breakdown for
> men buying suits? I doubt Walmart/Kmart are that big. One
> discounter, Today's Man, went out of business.

I think the main issue here is that demand for men's suits has been
gradually declining for a few decades. Not quite buggy-whip status
(yet), but casual clothing is far more prevalent in the workplace than
it was in the 1950s or 1960s. I've never heard of Today's Man, but
perhaps the competition from the likes of Men's Wearhouse was too much
for them in the overall slow-growing (or even shrinking) market for
men's suits.

TELECOM Digest Editor noted in response to Henry:

>> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I have seen mentions of Sears, Roebuck
>> occasionally in this thread. Back in the 1920's, Sears Roebuck was a
>> very large chain of stores. The radio station they started
>> acknowledged this fact by its call sign:

>> 'W'(orlds)'L'(argest)'S'(tore),
>> based in Chicago. WLS is on AM radio 890 kc...

> Interesting. I knew a different version of the 'World's Largest Store'
> story. The way I heard it, the radio station was owned by the same
> outfit that owned the Merchandise Mart (also in Chicago).

Our esteemed Editor is correct, according to

The Merchandise Mart was a spinoff of Marshall Field's. See

Bob Goudreau
Cary, NC

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