Recommended reading
I have never set foot in a Steve & Barry's--I avoid Herald Square like the plague, and I've heard that lines at their one NYC location, in the Manhattan Mall, are ridiculously long. Still, I was planning on checking out the as-yet-unopened store at Broadway & 4th Street (the former Tower Records), just to sate my curiosity. However, it looks like that won't be happening, since Steve & Barry's has filed for bankruptcy protection. The chain has actually been around for a while, but in the past few years, it raised its profile with celebrity lines from Stephon Marbury and later Sarah Jessica Parker, Amanda Bynes, and Venus Williams. S&B has a very appealing concept, which is that nothing in the store costs more than $10, but especially in this economic climate, you have to consider the true costs. The company apparently runs on a bare-bones operation, with no advertising, a minimal back office and executives that enjoy very few perks. As details of the bankruptcy leak out, it appears that while S&B's merchandise sold well, they didn't really make any money off of it; the company's profits came from kickbacks paid to them by retail landlords--in other words, Steve & Barry's got paid to open stores in underperforming and/or undesirable locations. Not really the best long-term business strategy. So, yes, it's great to buy a pair of jeans for $8.98, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

On the other end of the spectrum, retailers now say that sunglasses are the new It bags. Whatever happened to It shoes? Guess that was short-lived! Anyway, it makes sense--while designer sunglasses have made a jump in price over the past few years, $350 or so is still a lot less than, say, $2,000, which is what a lot of It bags now run. Then again, sunglasses are made out of plastic, whereas handbags tend to be made of fine Italian leather, but that's a minor point, I guess. If you feel the need to flaunt a status symbol in these uncertain economic times, the sunglasses do seem like a (somewhat) wise buy.

Finally, this is one of the most entertaining stories I've read in awhile--it's about former Gap employees with an obsessive compulsion to fold clothes. Having done my time at Contempo Casuals, I'm not a big folder, but I can't stand messy clothes racks, and if I'm shopping and see clothes falling off the hangers, I will discreetly tidy up. I am so glad to see that I'm not alone.

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