“Seems like everything but what I want to buy is discounted for Christmas,” observed Duane as we pulled out of the hardware store parking lot.
“It does seem like the stores started early with their discounts this year,” Survival Sam said. “I saw a headlined saying ‘Recession Fears Grow as Inventories Swell.’ It seems warehouses are bulging with goods. People aren’t buying as much. Blame it on the mortgage crisis and perhaps a few other things.”
“I hear relatives who work in retail saying there’s even concern about cutting employee hours, which is not what you’d expect this time of year,” added Duane.
“That’s rather ominous, isn’t it?” Sam said. “I understand Wal-Mart started their holiday discounts as early as October 1.”
“Can you believe that?” I said. “They must really be in the Christmas spirit, don’t you think?”
“Maybe they’ve got a bad case of swelling inventories,” Duane said. “Ever had swelling inventories? I hear they’re quite painful. Not even long lasting ice packs help.”
Sam and I both laughed at that one.
Then I asked, “Are consumers—you and me—not buying because we have enough stuff? Do you think we have everything we want already?”
“I think people are waking up to a budget crunch at home. I know the media paints a pretty bleak picture many times, but I wonder if they’re coming to the scene a little late. Things may not be as rosy as many in government or the Federal Reserve might have us believe. How many times have we heard them say the fundamentals are sound? Many people are losing their homes and jobs, and many may simply be afraid of what’s coming down the pike. There’s a lot of insecurity right now. Perhaps some people are reprioritizing. It’s time to stop and ask, What do we need vs. what do we want?”
“That’s more gloom and doom, isn’t it, Sam?” I asked.
“Not really. Things are different this year than they were last year or even two years ago at this time, and I think there’s a growing collective awareness of that.”
“Do you have a survival strategy in mind?” asked Duane.
“Start by taking one step at a time,” Sam said. “I’ve already suggested buying food to have on hand. How about leaving the big screen TV for someone else to buy? Put some of that Christmas money toward buying practical things for yourself. Get things you can use if we’re hit by a winter storm, like a propane heater and 20 gallon propane tank. Even if you can only buy one or two items at first, it’s a start. It’s going to take some rethinking, I realize, and that may mean sitting down and having a family powwow instead of watching the game of the week. Of course, doing this won’t cure Wal-Mart’s case of swelling inventories, but it’s a great way to help you feel much better.”