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General Retail Business Issues/Todays' economy vs. 1950's


Hi James,

This question has been nagging me but nobody has been able to answer it for me.

As we all know, all things manufactured in the "good old days", let's say the 1950's, were of much better quality than today.  But why?  I mean aren't the same principles in play as they are today, including competition?  So the cheaper the quality of the product, the more they will sell?

For e.g. how could/ why did all clothing manufactures sell good quality suits?  Why didn't one say to themselves, I can find a cheaper fabric, cheaper craftsmanship, and sell it or less?  Then the suit will not last as long, causing the consumer to buy a new suit earlier, and thus promoting more business for large companies to buy from each other to create the end product, like today.

I can't believe that ALL materials in the 1950's were of high quality, and they couldn't find a cheaper substitute?  I mean that just doesn't even make sense to me.

Of course cars are another example.  Why didn't they start using crappy plastic back then, why wait until the 1990's?  Whoever would have built cars back then with plastic would have been rolling in money.

Know what I mean?



The one thing that your are missing about the 50's is that there were no "low cost" producing countries then.  China was still agrarian and 'made in Japan' was the kiss of death as post war Japan only produced low quality that no one wanted to buy. Also, consumers were not demanding low price goods as they were making pretty good money.  Then came the 70's and 80's when Americans and Canadians could live the good life with a high income and cheap product from China.  Then the manufacturing jobs (high pay) left North America and the cheap goods were all that most could afford with low paying jobs. This is sometimes called "The Wal-Mart effect"

Hope this overly simple answer helps somewhat.

General Retail Business Issues

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James E. Dion


Most questions about trends in specialty retail, how customers are changing both in the US and Europe. Demographics for all countries as they relate to retail trends and issues. Store Operations, Buying and Merchandising.


Over 40 years in the retail industry, store level, store manager, buyer, merchandise manager, Vice President.

BS Psychology, MS Psychology, PhD(abd) Industrial Psychology Illinois Institute of Technology

Past/Present Clients
Microsoft, Harley-Davidson, Ritz-Carlton, Hummer, Williams-Sonoma, Ace Hardware, Coleman Spas, Aldo, Intel, Dell, Safeway, New Balance, IBM, Kodak, Bata International, Nortel Networks, Honey Baked Ham Co., Man Alive, Highsmith
B.S Chicago State University M.S. Chicago State University PhD (abd) Illinois Institute of Technology

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