retail news in context, analysis with attitude

he New York Times has  apiece by Amanda Hess, its critic-at-large, that starts this way:

"On my desk is a detailed miniature shaker of McCormick Crushed Red Pepper flakes. The bottle is small enough to pinch between my thumb and index finger; it looks as if it was made to fit the spice rack of an anthropomorphic hedgehog.

"I keep it around for its brain-soothing properties. There is something oddly relaxing about a banal item inexplicably shrunken into a fetish object. Sometimes I unfurl a tiny paper grocery bag and place the tiny pepper bottle inside, next to a tiny tin of Spam, a tiny jar of Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter and a tiny tube of Gourmet Garden Chunky Garlic Stir-In Paste.

"There is no tiny food in any of these tiny packages. They’re called Mini Brands, and they represent branding liberated from product. Zuru, the toy company that sells Mini Brands, has introduced dozens of household miniatures since their 2019 debut, including little Tresemmé bottles, little Babybel cheese rounds and little Wet Ones antibacterial wipes … Though Mini Brands are nominally marketed to children, they scratch a grown-up itch: for the lost pleasures of the supermarket experience."

Furthermore, Hess writes, "If Mini Brands shrink the grocery shopping experience into the palm of your hand, 'Supermarket Sweep' supersizes it, dramatizing the errand as an orgiastic ritual."  The reboot of the game show, she writes, seems perfectly suited to a world in which "you can still go to the grocery store, but you can no longer lose yourself there."

You can read the entire (and in my estimation, entirely weird) piece here.