The Nina Kampler manifesto: don’t waste space, buy less stuff

June 21, 2010

shoppingSometimes it’s refreshing to meet people like Hilco Real Estate’s Nina Kampler. They work up to their eyeballs in finance, debt, bankruptcy and the business of making and salvaging profits, yet think that there is more to life than money and private enterprise.

Kampler, who runs the retailer real estate group, visited us at the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit on Monday, and talked about all sorts of business-y topics that we love to write about on our wire. But on this blog, I’ll highlight one or two of her more interesting thoughts about public spaces and how people shop — ideas that seem to exist in opposition to the profit motives of, well, everyone who’s in business.

We talked about some strip malls and other kinds of retail properties along busy highways that have lost many of their tenants to bankruptcy or economic malaise, and now look depressing, dark and empty. Kampler’s idea? Give it back to the people.

“There is so much emptiness going on in the big spaces. … You’ve been hearing the same things for years: the churches will use it, bowling alleys, non-traditional uses. It’s not exactly happening… Weedy lots could be turned into productive-use and public work programs.”

We also talked about our lives as consumers, with a focus on what it really means to be a “consumer.” Sometimes, when people examine their own habits, they discover that “consume” is what they do all day long:

Kampler discovered this on a routine trip through the attic after packing one of her children off to college: “When I examined the contents of what I acquired, it was nauseating. We are over retailed because we are overstuffed. T-shirts and toys and books and serving platters… We keep shopping like the world is coming to an end. … If we made everything special and had fewer of it, the better stores selling product that would last…, we wouldn’t drown in junk and would have more time for important things like relationships and health… Buying stupidly isn’t a smart way to live.”

You say you want a revolution? Here’s one way to start.

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