Friday, September 25, 2009

I'm sorrry major retailers, say what?

Okay folks, we are in hard times. As of August, the US unemployment rate is 9.6% and it’s on the rise. More layoffs. I’m baffled by the lack of response from the retail market. I don’t watch much TV and we don’t carry cable or dish. But when I do, I see business as usual in commercials and am left feeling deficient because there is no possible way I can go out and live as the television instructs. Retail denial, that's what it is.

We need to reform our retail structure and there has not been one word about in Washington. It's head-scratching to watch this Economy of Excess flap around like a fish trying to get back to water to swim through this deep recession. Retailers, the days of more upon more upon more are behind us. An Economy of Excess is simply not sustainable. It's hurting our pocket books, the economy of our communities, our health and our planet. How do we overhaul this broken retail system?

Retailers don't get it as highlighted in this article brought to me by The Queen of Fifty Cents from the LA Times, "Savers need to resume buying habits to aid recovery, experts say." As far as I'm concerned she is the Queen of the Fiftieth Sense! "Experts" are telling us, who have no money, we need to start spending to get us out of this mess? Do "experts" really think the average American's tiny little pocket book is going to get us out of this mess? Who are these "experts?" I desperately need a job and think I could make a lot more sense and produce a healthier economy than they've been. I want to elbow my way through this crowd and take the helm.

Hey America, it's time to Dump Our Current Retail Mindset! Eventually retailers are going to be forced into change because I need that money for my mortgage payment, not some stupid chocolate fountain or a $90 pair of jeans!

This is reminiscent of the whaling industry scoffing at the prospects that a coal industry would ever take over the need for whale oil. Why everyone needs whale oil!

Stock your stores all you want guys. We cannot feed your registers if we can barely feed ourselves. Many of us cannot even afford your sale racks.

My grandfather grew up in The Great Depression. He honestly tells me he never felt deficient because "we were all in it together." I sense no togetherness here. I sense an odd isolation and a confused fragmentation. I sense identity crisis.

We cannot let times like this pass without it making a permanent mark on our ways. This is a time to suck in some serious life lessons. I wish we could turn back to the days of economic practices of my great grandmother as described in the March 10th post Six Baccarat Tumblers.

I personally like Le Dandy’s Shopper’s Fast.

You are not alone like the TV might like you to think! And this recession is not your fault. Maybe this post sounds a bit angry, but given the path that the American consumer's have been led and being told shopping is patriotic, someone's gotta be! We're none the better for it! In fact, we're jobless and in the hole.

Should you want more on this Economy of Excess and the lessons it MUST teach us, please read Kurt Anderson in the April 6, 2009 issue of TIME The End of Excess: Why this crisis is good for America. Anderson went on to write, "Reset." I've been hoping this book would eventually land on thrift store shelves and I've yet to see it, which possibly means it's something to hold on to. Yeah, new books can land on thrift store shelves in a matter of weeks of release. I was hoping Anderson's cover page feature would have made more stir in the economic dialog. But, I guess the major retailers are going to have to go by the way of the whaling ship captains.


Aimee said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly!

Honestly, this hasn't changed much about how we live & shop, because we had been on a cash-only, get-out-of-debt plan for nearly two years before the recession officially hit. We were already doing without a lot of extras. Our bigger change has been a layoff and subsequent move across country, and we can honestly say we wouldn't have survived that experience so successfully without the plan we'd been following!

The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

Take a look at this article from the LA Times a few days ago:
"Savers need to resume buying habits to aid recovery, experts say",0,3030995,full.story

Honestly, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Clearly, a lot of people do not yet understand that the good old consumer-driven economy is not sustainable.

I have been extremely fortunate in that my job is pretty darned secure, but even more so that I have been frugal all my life. I buy very little via retail. I'm holding onto my hope that everyone else will catch up with me one of these days! ;o)

Alan said...

Thank you for the kind words about the Shopper's Fast. I'm pleased to say it is going very well and it isn't painful. Most of us have far more than we need or really want.

Our retailers are on the same path as our car makers: downhill. They have only themselves to blame, creating crap in China and India and charging top dollar. It is funny that I find only high quality in thrift stores and eBay.

You are right in that there is no unity. A lot of selfishness with people concerned about only their own jobs.

Great post.

Beth said...

Great post, indeed. My only thought is that you might be preaching to the choir here. Those who read your blog, like Aimee, are likely already in a spend-less mindset.

Well before the recession hit, I was already aware of how much I have; so much more than I need. I looked around my TV one day and thought, "Geez, if I had to move tomorrow, it'd take forever to pack up just this one room."

For Christmas this past year, I asked my parents to make a contribution to a charity in my name, in lieu of gifts. Though mom still bought a little something for me, as she just couldn't bear the idea of me having nothing to open on Christmas morning.

Jill said...

Along with the recession we have had a death in the family and a divorce. My two kids who are still at home and I are living on approximately 40% of what we were a year ago. Cutting costs has been relatively painless - combining yard and thrift store shopping for most purchases, hanging laundry (with an electric dryer this cuts my bill by 1/3!), and thinking before we buy anything, including groceries. We're planning a vegetable garden for next spring, and sharing ownership of gardening tools and equipment with our next door neighbor. It can be done!

Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

I saw that same article in the LA Times and couldn't believe what I was reading. We are in month eight of our "God watch," (8 months of unemployment)and are prepared for an entire year...not because of a previously large salary but because we spent under our means for the last decade and put an emergency fund away....and then refused to touch glad that we held fast because we're touching it now. :)

Shopping Golightly said...

How true! Being frugal, maxing out your 401K contributions, contributing to a 529 college savings plan, buying a house within your means cannot hold up to a full year of unemployment when the market tanks.

Whether it's being laid off or being diagnosed with cancer, despite what we've been through, most Americans are completely clueless as to how close to bankruptcy they teeter.

It’s a giant Ball of Confusion. We need a giant call for retail reform.

Saver Queen said...

I quit my job just before the economy tanked, and moved to a new city with my partner, who had received a new job offer. I started looking for a job and worked very hard at it (I have a great education and experience and thought i'd have no trouble.) It was disappointment after disappointment. In June, our relationship fell apart and my parter left and moved away. Because I quit my former job I was not even unemployment insurance - I had literally income at all. I've had to improvise a lot, and maybe that's what it comes down to - the ability to be creative and resourceful during difficult times.

I was reading a woman's magazine yesterday and couldn't believe how much of it revolves around shopping. The best fall clothes to buy. The best this and that. About 90% was geared towards products. Hello - my life does not revolve around shopping!

I get the feeling that you wanted some ideas rather than just griping though, so here are some of my ideas to promote the community spirit that helped people get through the depression:

Throw a street part or backyard BBQ and ask everyone to chip in a couple of bucks or bring drinks/food. Knock on your neighbour's door and offer to help with yard work or to pick them something up when you're going shopping. (If it works, this can start a reciprocal relationship where you help each other out in times of need.) Conduct a swap with friends, family or neighbours - good options are a swap of kitchen stuff, kid stuff, etc. Start a personal finance group where you talk about money saving tips and financial strategies. Participate in community events at your public library. Volunteer to host a workshop in your community centre or library on thrifting or frugality.

Di Hickman said...

The 'experts' need to get on the same page as the rest of us, cos they are living in cloud cuckoo land! Thankfully we are doing well financially, DH job is pretty secure, we have savings, and I just received my qualifications and will be looking for work. However I LOVE thrifting and will never give it up for regular shopping. The only clothing I buy retail is underwear, sportswear (my profession) and swimwear, everything else (including shoes) I buy thrifted. Wednesday I got a pair of Levi jeans, 2 t-shirts and a Mudd bag all for $7!!!

Amanda @geekdetails said...

"They have only themselves to blame, creating crap in China and India and charging top dollar." I agree completely with that that. I've noticed it on handmade stuff too. I do not want handmade stuff from parts made in China. I don't want stuff slapped together and then have a big price tagged slapped on top of it all. I want it to be pretty and functional, not one or the other.

Tina S said...

What a wonderful post! When are we going to realize that the substance of life is not stuff! We have so much stuff that we can barely navigate our house. My parents continue to buy us stuff and get angry when we attempt to give away some of the old stuff they have given us in the past. It's quite frustrating. I'm trying to dig out of the piles and can't even think of accumulating more. I agree-who wants junk made from junk that is sold as quality? Count me out!

Anonymous said...

Folks, ye protest too much. This great blog is about smart, ecologically and socially responsible materialism. Its premise is sharing finds and adventures in an alternative market. It's still about consumerism and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. So please, take off your self-righteous wimples.

Shopping Golightly said...

Okay Anonymous,

To be clear, we need a marketplace. So, yes, we are consumers.

Thank you for you kind words.

However, you can go buy that chocolate fountain that you'll never use with its high carbon cost of manufacture. Or maybe you can buy your child a complete Lionel train set to chug around the Christmas tree because it looks cute and then box it up never to be used again.

I'll go buy a sweater from the thrift store when I NEED one. For I surely have not the money for a chocolate fountain and sure have no need of it.

Now excuse me while I go count up change for milk.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

We spent 2007 and 2008, and the first couple months of this year living off our pantry and garden, with a few forays for potatoes and margarine when we could. Eight months of no income, with half our previous income since then (plus plenty of other large expenses that came up during that time) have kept things pretty tight around here.

This year I was able to venture to the thrift store, finally, for some much needed clothing for myself. How grateful I was to be able to go shopping! Our garden has done better than the last two years, and our fruit trees will hopefully be large enough to give us a decent crop for fresh eating next year (they gave us a little this year). We are expecting our first pomegranates next month. I am planting my fall garden this week so that we can have fresh greens through winter and early spring.

I'm starting to be able to shop some again, and it's been wonderful to work at restocking our pantry.

I have seen an ad for Target (on Hulu) that talked about "where Frugalistas" shop for clothing. I had to laugh; I didn't like any of the clothing in the ad, and I have been able to get so much more from the thrift store for less! I'm going to alter a pair of thrift store jeans this week to make some maternity pants, and I already altered a skirt to make it a maternity skirt.

I'm working on homemade Christmas gifts as well over the next few months.

I watched something yeterday that spoke of the number of men unemployed in a church stake (made up of several congregations). In 1935, HALF of the men in that stake were unemployed. Though my city currently has the second highest unemployment rate in the country, I'm not seeing those numbers yet. I do know of a number of under-employed people, though, throughout the country, struggling to make things work on not enough money. One person had his entire company cut to 12 days of work a month. He and other people I know are taking any and every handy man opportunity possible to stay afloat.

I think we're going to see the unemployment numbers continue to rise, and quickly.

I saw another ad that I liked. I'm not sure what this company meant by it (it was an insurance company) but it made me think of what the word economy also means: "work." The sign said "Stimulate your own economy." I feel like I'm doing that as I plant my garden seeds this week and fertilize my fruit trees to get them to produce more fruit for next year.

Shopping Golightly said...

Prudent Homemaker,

It's funny how my views on zucchini and yellow squash from my community garden plot have changed this summer. Bring on the summer squash baby! I'll take all you've got!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your post and think it ought to be run on the front page of every newspaper in America!

Avrila said...

Speaking of gardens, my mind is made up and I'm definitely setting up a container garden on my balcony next spring. I'm thinking cucumbers, radishes, carrots, green beans, and maybe I'll make a couple of those hanging upside down tomato planters that are supposed to be so good out of milk jugs or something...or sometime when I buy potatoes, set one aside to grow eyes...

I keep being stunned, though, that people think the solution to an economy wrecked by stupid overspending is more spending just because production adapted to the overspending. The solution is to scale back "what we buy" to somewhere in the ballpark of "what we can afford" and then stick to that long enough to make businesses scale back "what they make/sell" to "what we buy/can afford."

Summer said...

Thank you!!! for telling the truth as I see it at last. How do we end the recession by spending more money that we don't have? The way I see it, that's what got the country into this mess to begin with. I hope when the storm clears, we'll all get back to the basics - spending money to pay people fair wages to give us the essentials, instead of paying people sweatshop wages to buy cheap junk.