retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Interesting column in the Wall Street Journal this week by Mark Penn – who no doubt is writing for the paper to make up for the more than $5 million still owned to him for not getting Hillary Clinton elected president – talking about what he views as a growing consumer trend – “the New Mattress Stuffers,” described as “people who have lost their trust in the financial world, and are preparing for the next meltdown.”

These people, the reasoning goes, are putting their jewelry and newly bought gold coins in safe deposit boxes, are buying safes and home vaults to stash whatever valuables they still own, and have a renewed faith in cash.

Penn writes, “If the post-war economic expansion brought us the baby boom, this crisis may bring us a baby squeeze -- a sharp reduction in births nine months from now, as refraining from having kids is the ultimate consumer pull-back. And instead of staying home, the evidence shows that more couples are going to the movies, with attendance up for this relatively low-cost evening.

“People don't talk much about their mattress-stuffing behavior. It kind of defeats the purpose if you tell people where your stash is. But there's a hunger out there for security hedges -- a gun, some cash, a little gold, a small safe in the bedroom -- in case all the ATMs suddenly shut down.”

I have no idea if Penn is right, but I certainly think that his view of the world is skewed. After all, he may think the world is made up primarily of people who can afford vaults, have jewelry, and are investing in gold coins as a hedge against a declining economic system. Maybe it is this skewed view of the world that contributed to the ultimate failure of the Clinton campaign; perhaps Penn didn’t realize that the world is more populated by people having trouble paying for groceries and tuition than it is by people choosing between gold and Treasury bills.

Not sure about you, but here is what we noticed last weekend when we went out Christmas shopping.

At Gap and Banana Republic, they were not particularly busy…and the people who were shopping seemed to be doing more looking than buying.

Tiffany & Co. (where we walked by, never opening the door) was utterly empty except for sales people.

Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn, on the other hand, were packed – and there were lines at the cash registers. So was The Apple Store…but then again, The Apple Store is always busy.

But the busiest place we experienced while Christmas shopping last weekend was…Starbucks. Long lines, no available seats, and lots of chatty, seemingly happy customers.

Hardly scientific. But interesting.

I have two white wines for you this week….the 2006 Aizea Breeze Albarino, which is a terrific Spanish wine….and, from Portugal, the Pirolito Valpacos Branco, which at six buck per bottle is both delicious and a wonderful bargain.

I’m afraid I don't have much else to say this morning…as you read this, I am undergoing knee surgery. Forty of so years of jogging led to a complex torn meniscus in my left knee, and I’m having it scoped this morning so I can back to my usual routine of jogging, boxing, etc…

I’m confident about it working. I had the same surgery on my right knee back in 2002, and until my left knee gave out, I couldn’t remember which knee had been scoped. Same surgeon, same hospital this time around. So things should be just fine…

Of course, if something does go wrong, this could be goodbye. But I think most of us are hoping that doesn’t happen. (Though there is this one guy who keeps sending me long and angry email manifestos – even though he says he refuses to read MNB anymore – who probably will be hoping for an accident with the anesthesia…)

So, have a good weekend. I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: