Monday, December 02, 2013

Bad economic data

By Carl

This statistic is less of a surprise than it appears:

Thanksgiving night shopping looked like a new family tradition this year as stores opened earlier and consumers took advantage of the extra time to spread out their Black Friday shopping.

The Thursday-through-Sunday tally, though, was less buying overall, according to data from several firms.

Thanksgiving and Black Friday combined brought in an estimated $12.3 billion in sales, according to shopping analytics firm ShopperTrak. Thanksgiving Day traffic grew 27% as nearly one-third of shoppers headed to stores on the holiday, according to the National Retail Federation. Many retailers opened earlier than ever, some at 5 or 6 p.m. Kmart opened at 6 a.m.

"Probably the most interesting is the amount of energy the consumer put into Thursday shopping," says Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak. "The retailers did a good job getting them up from the dinner table and into stores."

No, not the influx of shoppers on Thanksgiving Day. That makes a lot of sense to me. Dad and the boys are watching football all day. Opening on Thanksgiving was bound to be seen as a form of counterprogramming, instead of insipid marathons of bad programs on other networks, plus it gets you out of the house for the inevitable “drunk-cle” incidents.

No, that holiday shopping is off, actually down for the vital Christmas rush so far. There’s only so much cheap credit and endless refinancings will contribute to the cash position of Americans. Real jobs, with real wages that reflect the costs of living and the productivity increases that corporate America has seen over the past thirty to forty years, that’s what needed or we’re going to see more and more people leaving the commercial foodchain. Sure, there are going to be blips in the data, years when people feel a little more flush, but we’re entering a generation with the Millennials who have seen their wages stagnate too, and Baby Boomers stay off the retirement rolls longer, forcing a sort of “wrinkled ceiling” on wages and promotions. People will cut back. They have to.

After all, we’ve pulled every trick out of our asses to keep on keeping on: two-income families, with second jobs. Fewer kids. More credit. We the people are out of options, and the only one left to us is to drastically cut back in purchasing power.

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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