For 38 years, when I was a commercial bankruptcy attorney and then a bankruptcy judge, I saw the rise of the big box stores in retailing, which forced out many smaller retailers that had been household words in their communities.

For example, in Rochester, when I, and perhaps many of you, was growing up, people purchased their books and office supplies at a Rochester-based chain, with stores in Ohio and Pennsylvania, called Scrantom’s. Then came Barnes & Noble and Borders, and Scrantom’s went bankrupt in my court. Then there was another Rochester-based chain, Freddy’s Discount Drug Stores, where we all went for great prices on health and beauty products.  Then Walmart came up the Southern Tier, city by city, and that was the end of Freddy’s. That happened in communities all over the United States.

Now, it appears that the internet retail sites have finally gained enough momentum to dramatically change retailing, and they are, and will no doubt continue, to be the demise of many brick and mortar retailers, including some of those big box chains. Chains like Macy’s, Payless, Sears, Kmart, JC Penney, Guess, GameStop, Staples, CVS, BCBG, The Limited, and Radio Shack continue to close stores, and Radio Shack is in bankruptcy for the second time.

A local woman’s clothing store retailer recently was heard to say that, “people just aren’t buying as many clothes.”

I do think that people are in fact buying less clothing, and there is no doubt that they are doing much more internet shopping. Personally I see and hear it every day.  I see especially my under-50 family members doing so much of their shopping online. When I mention that I am looking for something, they tell me that I can find a hundred of those online. Then, it seems that everywhere you go, people are proudly showing you something that they purchased online for a great price.

But, as I indicated, and also from my personal experience, I believe that, when it comes to clothing, people are definitely not buying as much. We are much more casual in our dress than we used to be. You don’t have to dress up for church, a Broadway show, or even for work, in many cases, so you don’t need that many clothes. Also, there don’t seem to be as many of those “newest trends” that the clothing and fashion industry created every season, and which people bought into. (For men, fat or skinny ties, large or narrow lapels, pleated or flat front pants. For woman, there was seemingly always a new current thing.) People just wear what they wear, and they are clearly less concerned about “fashion.”

Even in my own case, before I retired, I accumulated a number of somewhat dressy sport coats, shirts, and slacks. I purchased them at great prices, of course, thinking that I would be wearing them a lot in my retirement. I recently gave them to the Salvation Army. It’s just not what I find myself wearing, and I think I still overdress.

The last thing that I have observed is that, today,  not only are many people working longer, but Americans are so much more into experiences, classes, exercise, and other activities, both for themselves and for their children, so that walking around malls and big box stores doesn’t seem to measure up. That is especially true, since so many of those “activities” take up quality time during the daytime. So for many people, it makes sense to do their shopping online early in the morning, or later in the evening, when it doesn’t interfere with those “activities.”


So, except for younger children, do you find yourself with a much smaller and more casual wardrobe than the generation before you, and maybe that even you had yourself in the past? One other thing, do you think women have, buy and wear as much jewelry as they used to? I hear from a “reliable source” that the answer is yes, but they are buying more costume jewelry and less of the “real stuff.”

If you are going to have a smaller wardrobe, shouldn’t quality be a priority?  Also, if you are going to be doing more of your shopping online, make sure that you use reputable and secure sites.

On a different subject, you may have seen or heard that, in New York State, the number of millionaires has increased 63 percent since the 2009 recession, and that there were 584 millionaires in Monroe County in 2014. When I read that, I said to myself that that couldn’t be right. We had to have many more millionaires that that, even if you don’t take into account any business or real estate assets people may own. It turns out that for those reports, millionaires are people who earn 1 million or more in income annually. I still wonder how many just “regular” millionaires we do have in Monroe County!

John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous columns at