We hardly knew ye
Not long ago I wrote about the demise of former mainstay retailers in the lives of us raised in the 1950s and ’60s. Woolworth’s, Ben Franklin, Montgomery Ward all were parts of our day-to-day lives.
The latest victims of economic and cultural change are the malls that since the late 1960s have provided society’s social and retailing watering holes. These iconic asphalt, marble and concrete shopping destinations are being replaced by the convenient yet homebound isolation of online orders with free shipping to our front doorsteps.
Time will tell how well the 21 enclosed and “lifestyle” malls of Arkansas hold up. I can always hope they adjust and accommodate in ways that keep them alive.
But economic forecasters and business publications don’t paint a rosy picture.
Retail analyst Jan Kniffen, founder of J. Rogers Kniffen Worldwide Enterprises in New York, told CNBC he believes about a third of the nation’s shopping malls will close in coming years. Kniffen estimates about 400 of the country’s 1,100 enclosed malls will fail in years to come. Of those remaining, he predicts some 250 will get through while the remainder will struggle. An Internet checks shows six in Arkansas — Phoenix Village in Fort Smith; Indian Mall in Jonesboro; and the Main Street, Southwest, University and Metrocentre Malls, all in Little Rock — already have either closed or been converted to other uses.
One cause of this evolution obviously has been online shopping. In some instances, malls in major urban areas had become gathering places by those causing crimes and concerns among customers. The recent rise of violent gangs and activist groups (along with the potential for terrorist threats in areas where large numbers gather) for the first time also weighs on the minds of perspective shoppers.
That can’t cause those who own and manage malls to be pleased.
There is more space than realistically needed for viable commerce, a lot more. Kniffen has been quoted saying, “On an apples-to-apples basis, we have twice as much per-capita retail space as any other place in the world. So, yes, we are the most over-stored place in the world.” He explains that our nation has an estimated 48 square feet of retail space for each citizen. That number is on schedule to diminish fairly rapidly.
Traditional mall anchor stores such as JC Penney and Macy’s already have been struggling while implementing cost-cutting measures. Other retailers, such as teen apparel chain Aéropostale, has filed for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, mall staple Sears has closed over 200 locations in two years.
What does all this mean for you and me, valued readers? I realize it’s mainly wishful thinking, but perhaps there’s a smidgen of hope our mall communities will adjust and find room for a return to individual retailers. But rest assured, sheer economics also will dictate that.
Depression and PTSD
Chances are you know someone (or even are one) who suffers from depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sadly enough, across Arkansas and America, tens of millions of people today are living their lives with these related illnesses to the human psyche. And while a wide choice of daily prescription medications can help ease the negative emotions and reactions caused by these conditions, they don’t resolve the root causes.
But I’ve learned of a once-monthly clinical treatment that offers relief by actually helping restore damaged connections within the brain.
Small infusions of the anesthetic ketamine show enormous promise toward help restore a sense of normalcy for sufferers, according to Dr. Steven Levine, of Princeton, N.J., founder of Ketamine Treatment Centers. Developed in 1962, and since used as everything from an animal tranquilizer to a recreational street drug commonly called “Special K,” Levine says small-dose ketamine infusions have proved a promising form of effective treatment.
Levine told me he opened Ketamine Treatment Centers in 2011 and has seen remarkable results when the drug is administered properly and combined with traditionally psychotherapy. Within the past three years, a growing number of medical centers and private medical practices have joined in making the infusion therapy available.
“The results have been amazing,” says Levine, now an internationally recognized expert in the clinical use of ketamine. “In some cases ketamine has started to alleviate patients’ symptoms after one infusion.” Research at multiple universities reveal a 75 percent success rate. A recent Columbia University study found ketamine infusions given in like a vaccine to those headed toward an environment likely to cause significant stress (soldiers entering battle or aid workers to disaster areas) prevented or reduced PTSD symptoms.
“We see miraculous outcomes with ketamine every day,” Levine says, “but unfortunately not everyone responds. … [N]o medicine, even ketamine, can do it all. [It] can provide a rapid jump start … . I don’t think of ketamine as a magic bullet. It’s a tool.”