chapter  1
30 Pages

On the Move at Niketown and Ralph Lauren

The flagship store, built around a single brand, is an innovation of the late 1980s and 1990s, a response, in part, to a crisis in consumer attitudes. Corporations found that the falsehoods of commodity culture were becoming transparent to consumers. People were getting savvy to the fact that the commodity wasn’t making good on its promises. The mere purchase of a piece of lingerie, a car, or a sports shoe wasn’t delivering a sexier self, a more chic self, or a more athletic self. Corporations were challenged to find a change of address to the consumer. Nike, for instance, developed ads characterized by an ironic attitude that would separate it, in consumer’s minds, from the vapid promises of prior advertising campaigns. It was to be a company with a conscience. In a Nike TV ad from this period, basketball star Charles Barkley says, referring to the shoes he wears: “They won’t make you rich like me. They won’t make you rebound like me. They definitely won’t make you handsome like me. It’ll only make you have shoes like me” (Goldman and Papson 1996: 90). The approach worked. In the course of its phenomenal growth, Nike has shaped itself so that it seems not so much a merchandiser as a soul that we can share in, inspiring us to take leave of our limitations and climb to our own personal heights.