‘Same old’ merchandise a problem to consumers

A recent New York Times story followed a group of teenagers who were shopping in a mall for clothing. The Times reported teens complaining “more and more, these shops have the same stuff.” Strolling through University Mall, or any mall in America, this should be evident and is yet another sign of an economic slump and a lack of innovation going hand in hand.

As retailers, manufacturers, as well as the Bush Administration are keeping their fingers crossed that the signs of the economy slowly picking up speed again turn out to be true, manufacturers have been holding back ideas as they do not want to release new products in a retail-hostile environment.

This Christmas season it is apparent in clothing lines, as well as in other sectors. As comedian Lewis Black put it in Wednesday’s Daily Show, innovation seems to be going backwards by combining gadgets such as cell phones and digital cameras and selling them as new items.

Consumers as well as musicians have also pointed out that the lack of sales that the Recording Industry Association of America claims is due to piracy instead is a result of a lack of good music.

Similar effects have been felt in the publishing and music industry. Even publishing houses such as Scholastic, the publisher of the Harry Potter books, have been writing red numbers for some time now even though books were flying off the shelves.

Other companies that bet on “innovating through the slump,” as Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computers said, seem to be doing better. Apple, aside from Dell, is the only computer manufacturer currently making a profit. Jobs, as well as analysts ascribe this to a slew of new products that Apple was releasing while other manufacturers were playing it safe.

It remains to be seen if this vicious circle can be broken and a newfound spirit of innovation can be re-infused into the American market. Meanwhile, it will be a bit harder to find a tie to give dad for Christmas that doesn’t look like all the others he already has.