retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports on what it calls the changing face of American consumerism - noting that while the economy seems to be improving and retail sales are on the rise, “Americans won't quickly unlearn the things they have picked up during the recession and its aftermath.

“While an improving job market is giving more people the wherewithal to spend, it won't quickly undo the damage the housing bust and financial crisis did to balance sheets. With inflation-adjusted net worth per capita still below where it was in the late 1990s, buying decisions will continue to be weighed carefully.”

This means, the story suggests, that private brands will continue stronger sales than have been historically the case in the US, as people show greater care about how they spend.

“The same dynamic,” the Journal writes, “could lead to people holding back on aspirational purchases, and slow sales at higher-end retailers. The somewhat straitened conditions at financial firms - Wall Street bonuses fell 14% in 2011 - might also have some well-heeled workers resetting their views on what constitutes a reasonable purchase.

“On the other side of the ledger, the improving economic backdrop should continue to help sales of big-ticket items that people held back on buying during the lean years, like cars and washing machines.”
KC's View:
I think it seems fair to suggest that many people’s attitudes toward spending have changed, and may remain changed for quite some time. I’m not sure it is permanent, in the way that the Depression has been imprinted on the consciousness of so many people. And let’s not forget - despite all the economic issues of the past few years, we still live in a world where there are precious few bread lines, and plenty of iPhone/iPad lines.