retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Baltimore Sun poses an interesting question – once the economic downturn ends and consumer confidence and buying power returns, will shoppers become the profligate customers of old?

“This time, experts say the new behavior -- fueled by higher gas and food prices, tightening credit and a slumping housing market -- are the most dramatic and widespread that they have seen since the mid-1970s.”And the Sun posits that “retailers, marketers and investors are all trying to figure out which habits shoppers will keep and which will they drop when the economy recovers. Will the people who switched to store-brand ice cream go back to Breyers or Edy's? Will shoppers return to department stores or keep looking for labels at T.J. Maxx? ”

KC's View:
It seems to me that this not an either-or situation.

There are old habits to which people are likely to return, and there’s no reason why not. Premium ice cream instead of private label, for example. Maybe an extra latte or two each week. And there’s no reason not to indulge in a particular piece of clothing from a boutique, if the money is there to support the habit.

That said, it is important to point out that Americans knew back in the seventies, during the Carter administration, that a gas crisis was likely to occur again, and steadily rising gas prices should have reminded us. But we forgot, and bought SUVs and Hummers and ignored for the most part the need for alternative energy sources, never spending the kind of money or time we should have in developing such resources.

Shame on us. We should have known better, and if we return to our irresponsible habits of old in such areas, then we deserve the planet that we get. It won’t be pretty, but we’ll deserve it.