Sullivan explains that department stores were always a rocky business for profitability, but they were central to public life in most towns, particularly at the holidays:
"[T]here was something about the downtown department store that can't be captured at a mall, let alone a website. It functioned as a crossroads of urban life, a quasi-public space that blurred class divisions and proudly saw itself as part of the city around it. The downtown department store strove to be a civic institution as grand and as original as an art museum or public library - an ambition hard to detect in their latter-day descendants at the malls or the chain discount stores that now drive holiday retailing."
Thanks to Robert David Sullivan