Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The economy, as revealed by our wallets

The ultimate commentary on the allegedly 'improving' economy was delivered by US consumers over the Thanksgiving weekend.  According to Bloomberg:

Spending tumbled an estimated 11 percent over the weekend from a year earlier, the Washington-based National Retail Federation said yesterday. And more than 6 million shoppers who had been expected to hit stores never showed up.

Consumers were unmoved by retailers’ aggressive discounts and longer Thanksgiving hours, raising concern that signs of recovery in recent months won’t endure ... Still, the NRF cast the decline in a positive light, saying it showed shoppers were confident enough to skip the initial rush for discounts.

. . .

Consumer spending fell to $50.9 billion over the past four days, down from $57.4 billion in 2013, according to the NRF. It was the second year in a row that sales declined during the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday weekend, which had long been famous for long lines and frenzied crowds.

. . .

The NRF had predicted that 140.1 million customers would visit retailers last weekend, a small decline from last year’s 140.3 million. Instead, only 133.7 million showed up. The slow start may make it harder for retailers to hit sales targets over the next month. The NRF had predicted a 4.1 percent sales gain for November and December -- the best performance since 2011.

There's more at the link.

I'm not in the least surprised to read this.  I went to our local Walmart on Black Friday morning to pick up a prescription, expecting to have to fight my way through crowds of shoppers - but the place was deserted.  There were even fewer customers than I normally encounter on routine weekdays.

As Karl Denninger trenchantly observes:

Remember, the NRF claimed this would be a "record" year.  Well, it's not.  Not thus far anyway.  And there is no particular reason to believe it will be through the rest of the season either.


Perhaps consumers are tired of the in your face crap and ever-creeping-earlier "christmas" nonsense ... Or maybe the consumer is simply tapped out and tired of being treated as a retreaded ATM machine to be screwed out of every dime they have with cheap Chinese garbage that breaks on command a week after the warranty expires.... never mind the deals that aren't really deals and the off-brand garbage peddled as "door busters."

PS: "Cyber Monday" appears, thus far, to be a bust as well - despite all the spam that online merchants sent out....

Again, more at the link.

I think he's right.  On the whole, consumers are simply 'tapped out'.  There's been no meaningful increase in wages and salaries for years;  millions of people have lost their jobs and still not found sufficiently gainful employment to replace them;  millions of others are now working part-time jobs because they can't find full-time employment (thank you, Obamacare!) and are making much less money than they did before;  and inflation is much higher than the government will admit, making it impossible for many to waste money on non-essentials.

I think it's going to be (as usual) a merry and blessed Christmas to those with faith, but a rather meager one for those looking to count cash instead of blessings.



RandyBeck said...

Yet another reason for the administration to be playing with Ferguson, and to be saying they'll close Guantanamo.

It's certainly easier than pretending to create jobs.

Jim22 said...

Sales seem to be down in almost all sectors - except guns and ammunition. FBI said there were almost three background checks per second on Black Friday.

Rev. Paul said...

"... it's going to be (as usual) a merry and blessed Christmas to those with faith, but a rather meager one for those looking to count cash instead of blessings."

Well said. Shoppers seemed enthusiastic enough here, btw, but the crowds were a LOT smaller than in years past.

Ruth said...

Last year I was working as a cashier for a major, nationwide, retailer. Crowds for the late Thanksgiving opening, and Black Friday sales were not as expected. They were over-staffed and sending people home early. And news reports are saying the same for this year.

C. S. P. Schofield said...

The MSM spent the entirety of the Bush administration beating the drums for a recession, a depression, any kind of economic downturn. Finally, at the very end, and thanks to a long term economic bomb set largely by Liberals (you mean if you make banks lend money to The Deserving Disadvantaged ™ that they can't pay back, the banks will go boom, faw down?), they got one.

They have spent the entire Obama administration beating the drum for a recovery. Any kind of recovery. But since Obama and his cronies are dead set against seizing their good luck and really making use of the breakthroughs in the oil and gas market, they aren't going to get one.

Remind me to set aside a nanosecond for a Pity Party.

Inconsiderate Bastard said...

Real numbers vs fantasy numbers.

It will be interesting, once the dust settles on the Christmas selling season and the data gets published in January, what the sales decline looks like. I expect to see a rash of store closing announcements in February, a la Sears, who has already announced the closing of a number of Sears and K-Marts (mostly a self inflicted wound, but also indicative of the general economic downturn; asked last week on their front page "where are you buying the tools you used to buy at Sears?").

I tend to shop more online because of variety, cost and convenience, and I've noticed a couple things: variety is down this year online - same stuff but fewer different models of it, and different stuff - amazon's Black Friday and Cyber Monday lightning deals (so far this year, at least) have a lot more tactical and prepper items, such as night vision and infrared scopes, backpack stoves, freeze dried and dehydrated food, boots, etc. over previous years. Even saw an ACOG yesterday at an excellent price. I suspect amazon has very good data on where buying trends are headed (I wonder if someone could get Bezos to talk about that). All that, and continued very high gun sales, indicate the water under the keel is getting dangerously shallow.

c w swanson said...

My wife went a year looking for a job. She finally will start a new one in January, but it's on call, and it pays just over minimum wage. Better than nothing, but not much. It's no surprise folk aren't spending money.