Toys, Digital Cameras, Food – A Parking Lot Test in Glendale 2

This Christmas Eve in Glendale, streets around the Galleria were about half as crowded as they were last year. I had already visited Target and the KB Toys liquidation several days earlier and didn’t need to make another stop at the mall, but it looked as if I could find parking if I wanted to.

Just two short blocks from the Galleria, Office Depot at the corner of Pacific and Broadway was almost empty. Actually, the store itself is set back from the corner. Its large, single-level parking lot (from a different, less congested era) is adjacent to the intersection. I drove in easily, parked close to the entrance, and walked straight up to the cash register (no line!) to take care of a last-minute exchange.

Grocery store parking lots and driveways were heavily congested, with cars waiting for exiting shoppers to load their trunks and vacate a space. Inside, though, plenty of Christmas merchandise and foodstuffs were still on the shelves.

Christmas day, the LA Times front page report said that in Dongguan, China, 1,800 toy factories have shut down during the past year. Ten million Chinese workers have lost jobs as factories producing toys and other export items have gone out of business. KB Toys won’t be around next year to place any orders at all. This is certainly bad for China, and the many migrant workers who found jobs and better wages during better times in Dongguan.

At Office Depot, all the digital cameras on sale during Black Friday were still available – orders for electronics will likely be much lighter in the months to come. Demand for paper clips and other sundry office products is bound to fall also as the economy contracts. Office Depot announced earlier this month that it would close 112 stores and 6 distribution facilities. Luckily the Glendale store is not on the list: I like its helpful staff, convenient stand-alone location, and the spacious parking lot.

What do people actually need during the holiday season? Parking lots in this area indicate that food and clothing top the list. The LA Times report says that celebrations in China feature practical gifts:

The Chinese government has promised to take measures to spur domestic consumer spending, with the hope that it will help pick up the slack. But Chinese consumers are unlikely to bail out the beleaguered toy industry.

Although many Chinese have come to love Christmas, decorating trees and windows, piping the ubiquitous carols into elevators and stores, one thing they don’t do is shop. The big consumer holiday here is the lunar New Year — and parents buy clothing and shoes for their children, not toys.

“All these toys we make are for the foreign children,” said 40-year-old Long Sunjun, who runs a small shop near the closed Smart Union factory. She says that even the children of the toy factory workers seldom were given toys other than squirt guns or balls.

“Chinese kids can make their own toys. Besides, they should be studying, not playing with toys.”

Readers: add your pithy conclusion below!

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