November 27, 2022

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Neman: Our new retail writer (re-)introduces himself. And he hates to shop. | Local Business

3 min read

I can endure it for maybe an hour, if I have to. I can trudge around from store to store, admiring all the wares that are for sale. I can even contemplate how I might look in this shirt or those pants.

But then — suddenly and without warning — I hit what I not so cleverly call The Wall.

The Wall feels like all of my vital organs have shut down. It feels like someone removed the stopper from the bottom of my foot and let all the energy drain out. I would flop to the floor in a fetal position, if only I could summon up the enthusiasm.

And that is why I am happy to tell you that I am the new retail business writer for the Post-Dispatch.

It can be a problem in journalism: Reporters who cover the same subject and the same people for so long that they come to believe that they are insiders. Worse yet, the people who are insiders come to think of them as insiders.

I hate to shop. On the retail beat, that makes me the consummate outsider.

People are also reading…

In a sense, this will be an advantage. Everything I write about will be new to me. I hope that my sense of discovery and perhaps even awe about what I learn will carry over to you, the readers.

It won’t all be open-eyed wonder, though. I have a journalist’s native cynicism when the situation calls for it, and sometimes when it does not. I understand that every statement from a company and every press release is issued entirely out of self-interest.

The grains of salt that I take them with will be many.

Because I am so new to the field, I will approach it with openness and expectation. I look forward to talking to nervous young entrepreneurs opening a clothing store on a shoestring budget and to experienced CEOs successfully navigating their chain of stores to ever-increasing profits.

I want to write about quirky shops and boutiques, and people who have carved out a niche in the market where none previously existed. I want to write about shop owners who found initial success but are now struggling for ideas to sustain it. I want to talk to car dealers, to toy store owners and to people who make a little extra spending money selling hand-dipped candles at their local farmers market.

It’s all new to me. It’s all exciting.

I come to this beat with an unusual résumé for a business writer. I have spent my entire career writing features. For the past eight years, I have been the food writer here at the Post-Dispatch. I do not have any data to support this theory, but I doubt there is much overlap in the readership of the food and business sections.

And I have already made my own, small mark on the retail world, although nobody realizes it. You know those comfortable chairs that women’s clothing stores always have for men who hate to shop? I was the one who first called them Patient Husband Chairs.

No one else actually uses that term, or has even heard it before now, but I hope it will catch on.

I am going to enjoy this ride as the retail writer for the Post-Dispatch, and I hope you do, too. If you have a tip about any aspect of retail business, give me a call at 314-340-8133 or shoot me an email at [email protected]

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