I was in New York over the weekend. I hadn’t ever been to New York.
We spent an afternoon in Central Park. It was Sunday afternoon, and the weather was nice – and the park was full of people. More people than a yokel such as myself can really comprehend easily – where did all these people come from? Where do they all live? Why are they all here?
But one thought kept coming to me:
Look at all these shoes.
It can be difficult to really understand the vast scale and power of the worldwide human economic machine – but if you get thousands and thousands of people together, and then just start paying attention to their shoes, you can start to get a sense for it. All those shoes. Very few of them exact duplicates – there are many similar styles, but not so many perfect matches, even in a sample size so large. Each pair had to be designed, manufactured, packaged, shipped, delivered to a store, then purchased by a person. So. Many. Shoes.
What’s more – shoes aren’t exactly a commodity. People care about their shoes. They have to be the right size, to start – but more important than that, they have to be the right style. We expect our shoes to, on some level, reflect who we are. So now you’ve got to have this massive infrastructure in place for manufacturing, delivering, and selling the shoes, but you’ve also got to close the loop – the customer’s desires have to inform your shoe designs. And it works! I saw thousands and thousands of pairs of shoes, and each one somehow spoke to the person who bought them – made them feel a bit more stylish, or more professional, more athletic, more unique – enough to spend some money and take them home.
The sheer volume, the complexity that makes up the industry that has no focus, no concern other than to protect and decorate your feet, is staggering.