From high-end venues such as Neiman Marcus through discount retailers such as Tuesday Morning, to car rental giant Hertz, veteran businesses all over are filing for bankruptcy faster than anyone can update the list. Here are just some of the big names that COVID-19 either crushed or handed them the final blow: J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, Stage Stores, Brooks Brothers, J.C. Penney, Tuesday Morning, GNC Holdings, Lucky Brand Dungarees, Gold’s Gym, Pier 1 Imports, Hertz, CEC Entertainment, and this is hardly the beginning of the list.
It’s not as if the coronavirus started the trend. Just last year, Gymboree, Payless Shoesource, Forever 21, Diesel, and many other big, medium, and small retailers filed for Chapter 11. While it is true that these stores fell prey to the online commerce revolution, it is still a sign that we are seeing the end of an era.
Accelerated by the virus, a process of abandoning the brands and embracing the basic is happening the world over, with America as the trailblazer. It is not only that people’s need to show off their high end tech-gadgets and trappings is diminishing; they also need less of them. The coronavirus-induced lockdown landed a big blow on sales everywhere, and some recovery is to be expected, but the general trend is downward.
People are changing; they are losing interest in buying gadgets that are here today, gone tomorrow, and leave nothing but emptiness in their wake. Instead of stuff, people are beginning to look for meaning in more lasting engagements, and mainly in human connections. It is simply that life has become so cold behind the text messages, and so limited behind the cellphone screen, that people need some real connection—connection of the hearts.
The heroes of tomorrow will not be movie stars or Instagram icons; they will be people who bring people together, who promote solidarity and mutual responsibility. The most admired individuals of the emerging era will be those who quietly make others feel that heart to heart connection is what makes them happy, what gives them confidence, and what they would like to feel from now on.