Some of us spend Friday nights at high school football games; some at the family dinner table; some at bars and clubs; some at friends’ houses; some babysitting at home. I spent Friday night at the mall. This mall is what you would call a “super-regional” at highway crossroads and very close to the big city. What I found was surprising.
Based on what the media tells us and the phrase “Global Financial Crisis” that flashes on the screen of CNN every 5 minutes or so, you would think the parking lots would be empty, stores would be in disarray and people grumpy and irritable. The exact opposite was true.
Now, was it promotional? Yes. But I seem to remember the holiday season being promotional for several years now. Was it quiet and tense? Not at all. It seemed festive and energetic and there were lots of children running around squealing, lots of people laughing on their cellphones and lots of shopping bags in hands.
Maybe this was an anomaly. Maybe this was a night where people let off some steam of pent up demand that has been building for weeks, but somehow I doubt it. I am sure the numbers are not as good as last year, but I don’t think it is the disaster that the media has made it out to be. The problem with the “Global Media” that is able to change its message or report a snippet of “news” in a nanosecond, it tends to exaggerate any situation. Crises sell. They sell programming on TV and radio and they certainly sell newspapers (and everyone knows they need all the sales they can get these days).
This is not to say that there are not structural problems with the economy. The U.S. housing crisis of confidence is the biggest of them all since this directly affects people’s lives and their notion of personal worth. The other scary issue is layoffs which is a slippery slope. As the economy slows, there is a domino effect on demand and therefore pressure on companies’ overhead and that’s when you get layoffs to cut costs and preserve some form of profitability to stay in business. Everyone gets that.
What I don’t get is the constant harping on retail sales once they happen especially when everyone knew what to expect. Everyone knew October was soft before they announced the actual sales tallies. However, once it was announced (an “astounding and record breaking” drop of 2.8%), the market acted as it it were shocked. That seems ridiculous to me.
What is also ridiculous is the manipulation that is going on near the end of trading days. I know I am straying from my mission on this particular entry but I have had it. The very best retail companies are being painted with the same broad brush as those copy cats and lesser lights I spoke about last time. Trust me when I tell you, people are buying and the good retailers are operating better than ever. Their results may be below last year, but who really cares for one year out of 10-12?
By the way, the busiest store in the mall by far was Bath and Body Works. It is pretty new to this market and their store is nice and compact and the merchandise is also very unique and affordable. I predict they have an outstanding holiday season.
Life is too short…You should too.