From the Wall Street Journal: “Double-digit declines in holiday spending continued in the first week of December in key categories, with luxury posting a startling 34.5% drop from year-earlier levels, according to new numbers from MasterCard Inc.'s SpendingPulse unit.”
As a life-long bargain shopper, this news should make MY spending pulse start to race. After all, I am the child of two black-belt shoppers, with a mother who trained me at Loehmann’s and at more obscure places like Al’s Outlet and Sam’s Discounts, and a father who could put his arm in a bin on Broadway labeled “SWEATERS $5!!” and pull out the one cashmere sweater in size XL Tall from among all the acrylic numbers. Bad economic news means good news for all the discount stores. There have already been stories about stores like Marshall’s and TJMaxx licking their chops, awaiting delivery of the REALLY GOOD STUFF.
Then, in the interest of research of course, I checked out the Saks sale on-line. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times have run stories about frenzied shoppers buying Prada bags for 75% off. Indeed, there are Prada shoes and bags and other status items at prices so low (relatively) that I realized that even I—the middle-income teacher—could have some iconic label if I so desired.
Strangely, instead of whetting my appetite for some status item, I just felt sad—because I realized I didn’t really want anything right now. So, in addition to being conflicted about college choices and Hermes ads (see my other posts on this), I am conflicted about bargains.
Levenger, the snazzy paper and journal store, keeps sending me emails: I got 3 in succession (there must have been a glitch), offering 20% off, 25% off, and 30% off. Note: I would pick the 30%. Even then I didn’t want anything. Some of these specialty stores may not be around much longer. It may seem trivial to be sad about the potential demise of Saks Fifth Avenue or other purveyors of luxury goods, especially since I have never spent a single cent there. Nevertheless, the prospect of a world without these places makes me uneasy.
These strange times remind of me Y2K, which in my area involved lots of people setting up their country property with water, food, and guns. An affluent neighbor, who bought a year’s supply of toilet paper, wanted me to chip in for a grain mill (I did not). We all went to bed on New Year’s Eve wondering if we would wake up to a world in which the survivalists were right.
When we wake up from the financial crisis, who knows how the world will be changed. I’m hoping that the denouement will be as anti-climactic as the morning of Y2K, when my wealthy neighbor sheepishly donated the toilet paper and grain mill and the newspaper did not carry a follow-up report on the people holed up with their supplies in a secret location in Folsom, Louisiana.