"Where there are no meaningful differences, brands become interchangeable commodities." This statement represents what many department stores have become, according to Paco Underhill, who calls himself a "shopping anthropologist." Mr. Underhill also complains about the "homogeneity of intention" of department stores, and adds that they "lack stimulus". This comment is in stark contrast to the huge popularity of department stores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time, the new middle class had never previously had the opportunity to purchase, let alone afford items that department stores were offering them. Department stores were awe-inspiring places to visit and purchase items, which is rarely the case now.Using history, behavioral, anecdotal and quantitative research, this thesis proposal will examine modern consumer behavior, and how recent economic changes and technological advances have caused major changes in how people shop. Consumers' lives have changed dramatically, and they no longer need department stores as they used to. However, shopping is an activity that is tightly woven into our culture, and there is a need for a more evolved and nimble type of retail environment that provides service, products and social interaction that the modern consumer needs and wants.The Lone Tree Exchange project is a department store which proposes to fill that need. Sited in Omaha, Nebraska, in a vibrant warehouse district, Lone Tree Exchange is a new business model that would stand for something more than the mere exchange of money for products, Lone Tree would be a new type of socially responsible retail environment, on that would borrow design elements from other successful businesses; aspects of social gathering spaces, high-tech, as well as the most innovative service and design ideas in the retail category.
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