As much as I loathe anecdotal evidence, I was taken aback by the sheer insanity of the retailers this week before Thanksgiving weekend.

Yesterday, I ran a few errands, and it was fairly insane. Black Friday is a full 7 days away, and the parking lots were nothing short of madness.

All the usual caveats apply — NY/LI is not the rest of the country, I live on the tony North Shore, and the Americana (the Miracle Mile in Manhasset) is not representative of the typical retail shopper. (Get a load of the intro to their website, and the list of stores, its utterly absurd.

Barron’s cover story is on that exact subject: Off to the Mall.

Are people seeing a renaissance of shopping, or is this just so much more wishful thinking?

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click for larger cover

Category: Consumer Spending, Retail

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

70 Responses to “Anecdotal Evidence: Shoppers Out in Full Force”

  1. Joey says:

    “Are people seeing a renaissance of shopping, or is this just so much more wishful thinking?”

    No. We’ve had similar experiences. What and how much people are buying? – Beats me.
    Portland,OR

  2. wally says:

    It seems that way here, too (Minneapolis).. in fact, we were just talking about it yesterday. Does it translate to sales or are people just going out earlier or are they just going for entertainment?

  3. ifish says:

    Barry, bubbelah.

    The North Shore of LonGuyland is hardly indiciative of the roadway’s across the U.S. of A peppered with Wal-Marts, K-Marts, Dollar Tree’s, Dollar Store’s, Cost Cos and Aaron’s.

    Barry, take a drive.

    Not a flight.

    Get into one of your superchraged cars across the GWB and follow I-80 into say – Pennsylvania – where their motto used to be “America Begins Here!” – it’s a wee different than the intro page for the Americana in Manhasset.

    Or, put the pedal to the medal and drive up to the Catskills along NY Route 17 (The Quickway) where there is a spiffed up Formula One track at the old Monticello airport called:

    http://www.monticellomotorclub.com/

    But after you take a few spins with Seinfeld (who’s a member) take a shopping tour along the NY Route 42 drag near Cappelli’s Concord (no building…just rubble) and you’ll dig what I’m talking about.

    Manhasset is a million miles away from Monticello, New York.

    Shalom baby.

  4. writersblock says:

    Last two weekends, and, especially, the last two days, the parking lot at the Cambridge Whole Foods has been a zoo. Next door, at the TJ Maxx, long, snake-around lines, and stacked shopping carts have returned. However, I note a weird, frantic pace, as if people want to get in and get out, before they wake up and snap out of their pent up buying demand haze.

  5. DMR says:

    Isn’t this just a variant of the “Foreclosures will reduce debt and cause a retail boom” argument earlier this year?

    One in 10 US consumers is sitting on the couch eating bon-bons bought with their unemployment insurance checks. The only way that those folks are reducing their debt is by defaulting on it.

  6. DL says:

    Time to end the QE.

  7. JimRino says:

    Same thing in PA.
    I noticed an uptick in mall traffic, with full parking lot for stores with sales, last month.
    This month has more traffic.

    I told a friend, it seems the tide has turned, and the recovery has begun, by he listens to Fox Lies, and didn’t believe it.

  8. Bill W says:

    I feel like I’ve been seeing busy malls since last spring. Does that translate directly into more sales?

    I have an anecdote. I was in a best buy looking for a new TV recently. The store was busy, but the big screen section was empty. I was the only shopper in it, and I was their for a while.

    My point is that I’m sure people are shopping more, but I’m not sure that they’re spending more. I never did buy that TV, but I’ve spent plenty of time “shopping around” for the best bargain.

  9. dvdpenn says:

    Retail is the most overbought sector in the market right now (XRT and RTH). This Barron’s cover captures the mood perfectly.

  10. Frwip says:

    My gut feeling is that the recession is massively “bifurcated” and unequal.

    Part of the population is really taking it on the chin, something really tough. Other part is mostly untouched except through other family members. Now, with the relative economic stabilization we’ve seen, the initial fear and retrenchment in that segment of the population is fading, with a return to spending, mostly in the mid to high-end retail.

    Seeing the numbers for Walmart would be more interesting.

  11. John Edwards, c. 2004, was hitting the right Notes..(“Two Americas”)

    this ‘Shopping Season’ might well prove it, Empirically..

    a good many, contra to much of the ~wailing & gnashing of teeth brought to us by the Mighty Wurlitzer, had decent years in ’010..

    others, (those “looking” for Jobs), not so much..

    http://search.yippy.com/search?input-form=clusty-simple&v%3Asources=webplus&v%3Aproject=clusty&query=John+Edwards+Two+Americas

    http://search.yippy.com/search?input-form=clusty-simple&v%3Asources=webplus&v%3Aproject=clusty&query=The+Mighty+Wurlitzer+Operation+Mockingbird

    and, one to chew on http://educate-yourself.org/cn/ciadisinfoinaction28mar05.shtml

  12. franklin411 says:

    Stuff doesn’t last forever. At least in my experience, minor appliances have a 2-5 yr lifespan before they either break or become obsolete. The upgrade cycle for consumer electronics is much more rapid, of course. So it’s not surprising that 2-3 yrs post-crash, people need new stuff.

  13. randomletters says:

    In my part of the world, what I see are tons of “pre-Black-Friday” sales that parallel Black Friday prices but which are designed to convince the consumer that Black Friday is worth avoiding. This seems like priming the pump now, but at a self-sacrificial cost.

    On the other hand, if it teaches the dumbsumer to go out and spend, it will work.

    Anecdotally, many of my friends (solid middle class) are either under-employed, un-employed, or severely concerned about job security. It’s not a panic-year, so comparisons to 2009 and 2008 will be favorable. But it doesn’t seem to be a good year.

    Live by the mark-down, die by the low-revenue outcome.

  14. inthewoods says:

    My wife and I were commenting on the same thing – Mall in Natick, MA was a zoo.

  15. mhdoc says:

    Costco in Albuquerque was jammed.

  16. rg says:

    I think it’s the sales more than anything. I live in North Carolina. About two weeks ago I went to a local chain retailer (Belk’s – which is similar to Macy’s) and bought some clothes (on sale). The clerk remarked that business had been really slow for a couple of weeks.

  17. Mannwich says:

    Don’t know about shopping yet, as I usually try to do mine all at once after Thanksgiving, but restaurants here lately have been jammed packed full of revelers. Don’t know how much they’re spending but they sure seem to be out and drinking quite a bit lately.

  18. VennData says:

    Chicago Michigan Avenue = Zoo. Everyone has bags. Anecdotal, I know.

  19. Mike in Nola says:

    The explanation is pretty simple. Retailers have moved Black Friday up because of bad sales. I get emails from Newegg every day advertising their Black Friday specials that you can get now. Penney’s has had extremely good sales for the past month and I’ve picked up pretty decently quality casual shirts for $8 apiece after all the discounts. Makes you wonder how whatever factory made them turned a profit considering the weak dollar and rising commodity prices.

    In a New Orleans suburb where I had to stay this past week, they kicked off the Christmas festivities yesterday instead of the weekend after Thanksgiving.

    Someone even posited the better-than-expected October sales as due to sales being pulled forward by early discounting.

    You also have the wealth effect among the higher income types. Their 401k’s are back up for now.

    And it is the Christmas season. Even Hanukkah Harry is probably out buying socks for the good boys and girls.

    The big uncertainty is that sales does not equal profits. We shall see.

  20. Mannwich says:

    Great point, Mike. I wonder if it won’t peter out early this season for the reasons you cite and how will profit margins (remember those pesky little things called “profits”?) be affected?

  21. Mike in Nola says:

    I meant to add that someone is seeing big margin squeezes: higher raw material products, a low dollar and they have to sell everything discounted. Arithmetic still counts. I think Bloomberg recently had an article on the squeeze being put on Chinese manufacturers, not just from raw materials, but also from skyrocketing real estate and wage pressures because of inflation over there. That may be where the Chinese bubble pops if some manufacturers can’t keep up and start throwing people out of work.

  22. bulfinch says:

    Yessir, our collective tit is free from the wringer. Bust out the bag balm and let’s hit the maul.

    Ugh.

    That is to say – UGH.

    I see the shopping pandemonium as much more of a last gasp. There is, I think, a sense of anarchy seeping into the public psyche; the more people witness this or that blatant fraud getting brushed under the rug, the more relativistic they become about their own behavior, habits and appetites.

    That this anarchy would manifest itself in the form of shopping til you drop — that’s what really sucks.

  23. investorinpa says:

    Barry, last week while shopping at the nearby outlet mall, it took me 15 minutes to find parking. 15 minutes!! I drove around the outdoor outlet mall complex 2x before I found a spot nearly a mile away. My girlfriend works part time at another mall (King of Prussia) and its been packed the last 2 weekends. My theory is that retailers are offering good deals AND there is SOME pent up demand AND some people inherently “feel” an inflation coming on and want to buy stuff now. My area of the country (Philly suburbs) did not have as big of a RE bubble as other places did, but I can tell you that there is very little difference in the economy from Sept-Dec versus the last few years. Bars have been packed (Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers all having good success) and malls full.

  24. Mannwich says:

    @bulfinch: That might also explain the downright giddiness lately out at the bars and restaurants that I’m seeing. Maybe people are just saying “eff it, things are effed up and I can’t do anything about it, so I might as well go out and enjoy my life”.

  25. Ilya says:

    Barry my son. It has been written that the rich will always be with you. Or was that the poor.

    Both classes shop. Some dicker for a less than sticker price for that new 911 Turbo while others wait for the 28cent a pound loss leader turkey at Kroger.

    Holiday sales in aggregate may hinge on an extension of unemployment benefits. Taxpayer backed bonuses for banksters insure sweet puddings again this year for the environs of NYC.

    I’m personally hanging on to my 5 year old Turbo and anxiously wait for Porsche to reduce prices.

    Ho Ho Ho.

    ~~~

    BR: If you are willing to buy a 1 year old car, there is lots of distressed merchandise around from people who got in over their heads: Rolex, Porsches (I’m not a Porsche fanboy), boats, and of course, houses galore.

  26. Mike in Nola says:

    For those who want to take part in the festivities, here’s a link http://bfads.net/

    Judging by what’s there, it looks like one recent prediction will come true. On an HDTV podcast, they predicted a 42″ plasma would be sold for less than $400 this year.

    I may even go HDTV this year. We don’t watch much tv and still have an old 26″ Sanyo. 50″ 720p plasmas can be a great bargain if you don’t sit close to the screen.

  27. holulu says:

    OFF TOPIC:
    In my humble opinion this whole TSA story is by design. After all, metal detector and Xray are not enough that they have to do humiliating body search.

    Gov. wants to see and feel how far Americans would succumb to authority so in future they would know how to calibrate their (Govt’s) pressure on public without blowing a relief valve.

    Something very sinister is going on in this country. Big Brother is getting bigger.

  28. ninjadrop says:

    But everything is still made in China right?

  29. tradeking13 says:

    Retailers are starting the X-Mas selling season early to get ahead of the end of year layoffs. :)

  30. Jojo says:

    Just goes to prove that the wealthy control so much income, that 15 million unemployed and another 15 million underemployed really don’t matter to the state of the economy!

    I guess Bush & Obama were correct to focus on getting Wall Street going again while not worrying about jobs for mid-America.

  31. quiddity says:

    Los Angeles (westside) report: Was in various shopping plazas on Saturday afternoon and it was solid, but not packed in the parking lots. But strangely, it was not all that crowded in the stores. Perhaps that was just a lot of people getting one thing (like me) and not so much the family out for a big haul.

  32. teraflop says:

    Dallas & Houston: same “problem” whether up-, low-, or medium-scale locales. Credit is king evidently.

  33. ElvisP says:

    If people have the time to shop now, well, they aren’t that busy and motivation for Black Friday shopping, on the actual day, isn’t that grand.. So maybe, since they don’t have that many holidays parties and haven’t left ahead of Weds, they have some down time, and are making their way to the stores ahead of the mad rush.

    If you were in the “Strictly Shopping ” industry , would you have a contrarian indicator with the Barron’s cover picking up the recent shopping rush?

    1. Mainstream — not (the industry’s typical source of noteworthy info) business — publication

    2. Well understood concept that is reaching a climax (or anti climax/bottom)

    3. Asset price gains (Increase in cash flow/activity)

  34. tt says:

    miracle mile has all the bailout money.

    why the shock barry.

    wall street and pentagon has the dough.

    too bad what happened to manhasset. it was a nice place about 70 years ago. it is brooklyn/queens without the soul, now. i feel your pain if you are hanging out in manhasset after working so hard for so many years.

    see what happened to the old brady estate. a real robber baron’s castle. it is now a jesuit retreat house with ugly condos stacked up like cord wood.

    one can travel the globe and not find the level of hubris in such petite bourgousies as is at the miracle mile. my sympathies barry, you come across as such a happy chap on the tube.

  35. NiNM says:

    Sam’s, Kohls & Target all packed in Santa Fe. With visitors next weekend I’ll have a chance to see how the chichi shops & restaurants in the tourist area are doing. It was only two years ago that town’s major art dealers had gone months without a sale and there were loads of vacant storefronts. Not so much now. Hubs was recently on business in San Francisco and said every (week) night restaurants were packed with 30+ min waits.

    This year I am finding good discounts on things my kids want – better than last year. However, the toys and movies this year seem to be more interesting.

    Geez people, can you get through a single post without frothing at the mouth about politics?

  36. Jojo says:

    I follow 4 or 5 “deal” websites on RSS. For the last 3 weeks or so, the deals listed have increased to probably over 300 daily! Black Friday deals have been available in many stores and online for weeks now.

    Some dolts lined up with a tent at a Best Buy in Florida last Friday with the intention of being first in the door on BF. Unfortunately for them, they aren’t computer literate. Or they would have known that BB will be offering their BF deals online on Thanksgiving day. No need to camp out for a week.

    I think that a lot of people that read these deal sites know all this and are out shopping now. If so, then the actual BF numbers may come in less than the media anticipates.

  37. jb says:

    Stores and parking lots jammed full in Hyannis, Cape Cod.

  38. Sechel says:

    I seem to recall stats being produced this past year, that said consumer debt was down, not due to savings but bankruptcies, mortgage defaults and loan modifications etc. Economy is still not better across the country with the exception that NY seems to be doing a little better than two years ago. Perhaps Barron’s is talking animal spirits.

  39. Irish dude says:

    just got early Christmas pressie from IMF_ Claus today (€90bn). Will shop til I drop. Thanks folks

  40. mathman says:

    Here (in the same area as investorinpa) i’ve noticed that traffic is horrendous at least three days out of the work week, that the K of P mall is pretty crowded (by sight, i won’t go near the place) and that some people are doing a LOT of shopping. My family is downgrading Christmas this year to “low key” and concentrating on just being together, a great meal and a few quality gifts for the kids. So many people are suffering through un- and under-employment that it’s hard to justify going out and spending exorbitant amounts of money on frivolous “stuff.” In my own case (adjunct professor at three area colleges) i never know when my own employment will come to a screeching halt, and my wife’s corporate job is unbelievably stressful (regularly works over the weekend, puts in long hours, but pay never increases). Despite the fact that we own our home outright (no mortgage) the taxes are steep and we have little “saved up” for “retirement” (whatever that is – i can’t see a time in the final 20 yrs of my life when i can just sit back and relax, not work, or even go on vacation).

  41. dead hobo says:

    told you so a few of weeks ago, twice over 2 or 3 weeks as I recall. And this was before the pre-black Friday sales started. All I’m getting from this is “don’t believe your lying eyes, just believe what wall street tells you.”

  42. I mentioned to my wife that I thought Xmas was going to surprise to the upside about a month back. A week or two back I mentioned here about my shopping experience and how much busier the stores were. This weekend the few stores I went into (home depot, costco, supermarket) were all full to the brim but I was chocking that up to people getting stuff done to avoid the malls over thanksgiving.

  43. troutbum says:

    Charles Smith has addressed this very issue :
    http://www.oftwominds.com/blognov10/recession-recovery11-10.html

    Here are the first two paragraphs:
    “The top 20% are prospering and spending money; the bottom 80% are not, but thanks to vast wealth disparity, the top slice of households can keep consumer spending aloft. This provides an illusion of “recovery” that masks the insecurity and decline of the bottom 80%.

    There is statistical and anecdotal evidence supporting both a “we never left recession” and “the economy is recovering” interpretation. The key to making sense of the conflicting data is to understand that there are Two Americas.”

    Roughly speaking, we can divide the U.S. economy into “Wall Street”–the financialized part of the economy which encompasses the FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) economy and its bloated partner in predation, the Federal government–and “Main Street,” the looted, overtaxed remainder of the “real economy” which isn’t a Federally supported corporate cartel (i.e. the military-industrial sector, the “healthcare”/sickcare sector, Big Agribusiness, etc.)

  44. gd says:

    The local food pantry, covering several towns west of Boston, had about twice the usual count last week for free food. Does that count?

  45. There can be no doubt the economy, as well as the concetnration of wealth in the counrty, is bifurcated.

    The disparities between the higher socio-economic classes and poorer classes is huge and growing.

  46. MacroEconomist says:

    Barry, at some points things need to be upgraded.

    Truth be told, I have already been buying a few things because the deals are absolutely incredible. Got a fantastic designer suit from Macys for $140 after adding discount after discount, new high quality wool slacks, $40-$50.

    I can’t speak for everyone in our neck of the woods (actually I split my time between Great Neck and Fort Lauderdale these days), but I know that I am far more discriminating with the way I shop – and I was already a cheap ass during 2004-2008.

    And forget about luxury items like a new car for me. Yes, I want and I can afford the new Beamer convertible, but my 4 year old Acura TL will do just fine.

  47. curbyourrisk says:

    My anecdotal findings. I live in the middle of Nassua County. Malls were empty over the weekend. Home Depot parking lot was barron and Lowes was almost as bad. Went up and down 110 (Barry will know what that is) along the whole furniture 2 mile strip. I saw more people outside holding up going out of business placquards than I did shoppers. I have a friend who works at a place called Siegerman. They are in business 72 years. They hired a truck to carry a sign up and down 110 yesterday asking for people to save the store. Cash sales get better discounts. ALLL INVENOTRY MUST GO.

    Yeah…real anectdotal.

  48. curbyourrisk says:

    “BR: If you are willing to buy a 1 year old car, there is lots of distressed merchandise around from people who got in over their heads: Rolex, Porsches (I’m not a Porsche fanboy), boats, and of course, houses galore.”

    Why don’t ya just kick them more while they are down. Can’t wait to take from those who can’t afford it can ya?

  49. curbyourrisk says:

    I really can’t believe the number of Polyanna’s that show up here to cheer lead the economy. Reality is a bitch.

  50. tt says:

    who really cares if amerika is consuming again.

    our problem is forming capital, net of debt.

    packed shops in ugly long island is part of our nations problems.

    we are literally consuming ourselves into a future default, as a nation.

  51. Bill W says:

    It occurred to me, no matter how bad the economy is, at 4:00 AM day after Thanksgiving, someone is going to get trampled at a Walmart door buster sale. That could be all we are seeing here.

    I live in Massachusetts, and I was seeing Christmas decorations at the grocery store before Halloween. I bought a couple of fleece pullovers from Old Navy for ten bucks a piece. You couldn’t get them cheaper at a flee market.

    I’ll admit that I’ve been seeing increased mall traffic since May, so this could be the start of trend, not just shoppers taking advantage of bargains. We’ll see.

  52. BuffaloBill says:

    I was also in Manhasset this weekend and the Apple Store was (as always) packed as were the stores in The Americana Manhasset. While I rarely venture South of 25A on Long Island, I then headed to Costco in Westbury and was struck by the number of empty “mom and pop” storefronts peppering Glen Cove Road and Old Country Road. Some are now the temporary home of “Pop-Up Stores.” I’d like to see absorption rates for commercial retail space in Nassau County. One thought I had was perhaps we’re simply squeezing “fewer serious shoppers” into far fewer stores, creating the impression that business is booming? Anecdotal impressions might be very misleading for total retail sales.

  53. louis says:

    “The disparities between the higher socio-economic classes and poorer classes is huge and growing.”

    No doubt, those rushing to the “sales” are the Zombie Nation that will be left on the battle field along with the homeowers. Never leave a man behind unless his DTI is too high.

  54. willid3 says:

    well we are really big shoppers, but my wife’s laptop died last week so we had to find a replacement. since we aren’t in stores all that much its hard to say. but looking at the parking lots here in DFW, I would say they aren’t really shopping much. we went Fry’s (electronics) and Sams. we could have parked as close as wanted too. and the stores were even close to being busy. but we did a good deal I think on a laptop. even got 0 % financing to smooth over the price since we weren’t really expecting it.

  55. Bill W says:

    BuffaloBill,
    You make a great point about the same amount of shoppers in less stores. Mish has been making the “same store sales are misleading” point for at least a year.

    I have three bearish explanations for increased traffic and one bullish.
    BEARISH:
    1. Many stores have closed, so the remaining stores seem more busy. (BuffaloBill)
    2. Shoppers are just responding to deep discounts.
    3. Shoppers are bargain hunting for items that they really need, so they are spending a lot of time traveling to different stores looking for the best bargain, but not much time spending money.
    BULLISH:
    1. Barron’s is right. The consumer is back.

  56. vine2wine says:

    In San Diego, it was fairly sh*t-showy at the fancy mall (Fashion Valley). Lots of folks just walking around though, not too many bags in hand …and of course the Apple store was packed to the gills. I swear Apple Stores are the modern equivelent to scratch n sniff stickers.

    I also went to a Target shortly thereafter. Lots of fairly light carts, didnt see any big purchasing.

    On both accounts, the parking lots were packed but the lines in stores were light.

    I would guess the retailers through out a feeler sale before Black Friday to get a feeler on how many sheeple would come out of hiding.

    BTW on a side note, our beloved SD Chargers managed to not get the home game blacked on for Monday night Football. The economy MUST be getting better! lol

  57. zell says:

    Heavy shopping in Gainesville, Fl.. Retailers effective in pulling Black Friday ahead one week. Want to make sure that money spent is done in their store. All eager to get out in front.

  58. daf48 says:

    Bifurcation. Food Banks are just as crowded as the Malls. In Edmonds, Wa., the local food bank has never had as many visits as they did last week.

  59. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    Here in Kansas, where the housing bubble never got extreme, I’m not seeing the heavy shopping. Up a bit due to the pre-Black Friday sales, but not crowded.

    Two other anecdotes. I don’t shop for “stuff” except around this time of year. For the past 3 years, my annual trips to Wally Mart and the like have me seeing lots of stuff that’s priced so low I think, “why not, it’s almost like shopping at the dollar store.” This year the low-end crap is priced so high I think, “even when it goes on sale later it’ll still be way overpriced.” I suspect that now that China supplies almost everything we’ll find their prices suddenly rising; monopolies tend to work that way.

    Also, this is the third year I’ve been treasurer at a church in Topeka. Most are truly lower middle class, ie have jobs, but in health care, retail and other low-paying jobs. Median Topeka household income was just under $40K in 2008 per gov’t stats, which feels about right for our church. (But you can also get a decent house in Topeka for under $100K.) Anyway, the past two months our giving has been off noticeably from earlier this year, which itself is down about 10% from last year. The previous two years I’ve had just one or two of our regular givers tell me they’re cutting back due to financial problems during the entire year. This year I’m getting told this by at least one, and often two people EVERY SUNDAY for over two months now. And we’re a church with a little less than 100 members. These people won’t be in the malls much this year.

  60. bergsten says:

    No way of telling in the Silicon Valley / Bay Area of northern California.

    People are so “shopping crazy” here that the parking lots are full even when the malls are closed.

  61. Marc P says:

    The retail industry is delusional. For the past decade the industry has expected sales to go up each year while incomes and population were flat. That was when the economy was good. Hope springs eternal. Data don’t.

    I’m waiting for the Fed to try to figure out how to get credit card rates artificially pushed lower so people will borrow more and spend. I’m sure they’ll think of something. A gov’t-guarantee for issuers of credit card debt if the cards carry 8% rates? Santa Claus Ben will think of something.

    It would be nice to see sales tick up a bit, but even if sales did what would that mean for the marcoeconomy? The financial press would sing the song of recovery, or rather, rewrite and repeat all the press releases of retailers who are trying to artificially bring back consumer confidence through cheery press releases (expect the Fed to join the chorus). Fundamentals would still suck.

  62. Livermore Shimervore says:

    New Jersey here…I made the rare visit to the Garden State Plaza which is closed on Sundays (blue laws).
    This is an immense shopping mall with big parking lots north, south, east and west. I drove around for a solid 20 minutes–that was first . It wasn’t even looking for a spot that took so long as much as just getting around the parking lot. Cars everywhere. One interesting bit in the Bergen county neck of the woods is how all the orthodox Jews bolt for the mall the minute Sabath is over. With an early sundown that leaves them with a solid four an half hours of shopping. At another destination, Costco, the place was pretty empty for a change. The third stop was the REI store in Eas Hannover and this too was swamped. These guys are pretty smart, for a store half the size of your average SPorts Authority, they’ve got four times the number of cash registers…. In and out. Excellent line up mountain biking, ski and camping equipment at prices pretty close to internet.

  63. bear_in_mind says:

    Bifurcation indeed.

    In Nor Cal this weekend, I saw the pre-Turkey Day stocking of the larder, but traffic at the other retailers (Macy’s, Nordstrom, Saks) didn’t appear out of the ordinary to me. I noticed at Costco there was little activity in the holiday section with most shoppers focused on the pantry and household staples.

    This will be the fourth year in a row where I’ll be spending less than the year before. Annual income is down 6 percent y/o/y. Couple that with increasing savings and my overall spending is reduced close to 20 percent from the previous levels. I consider myself fortunate to have the leeway to save that much and I have no desire to resume to frenzied buying… especially not with more cuts and austerity clearly on the horizon.

    One distinction this year is that I chose to travel on vacation (first time in three years), flying to Maui in October. But that ‘spend’ is already in the economy.

  64. JimRino says:

    The economy may be bifurcated.
    But, the point is, compared to last year the malls now have people in them.
    Some of those people have got to be spending money.

    I don’t think anyone is saying we’ve recovered to 2000-2008′s economy.
    Just that there is visible improvement, which should translate into more jobs down the line.

  65. bart says:

    Inflationary expectations are seriously undervalued as a factor – “get it now before the price goes up”.

  66. pilotpete says:

    Nothing riveting here – just joining in for regional perspective: We didn’t visit any discount retailers Saturday in Dubuque, but the local mall appeared full and frenzied. I bought a pair of eye glasses, then my wife and I picked up winter clothing items at JCP. Theisen’s, the local farm retail store, was also packed. I like Theisen’s vs. WMT, TGT, and the like. Wife commented about the great prices on clothing – hat, gloves, dressy winter coat. I said yeah, but it’s still the inexpensively-produced foreign goods we’d find most anywhere. But the items there do seem better quality.

  67. 4horsemen says:

    This is quite clear actually. I’d say that they additional traffic making the malls appear “frantic” is made up of Canadians. We went down the the US last weekend, and aside from the 3-4 hour line of cars at the border, the malls in the two cities we visited were packed, but 75% of the cars in the lots were Canadian. I know people taking advantage of the cheap-ass UD discount airlines to fly all over the country to shop. Our mindset changes dramatically when the CADhits par.

    Thanks Bernanke. And thanks for the goods, suckers!

  68. A gov’t-guarantee for issuers of credit card debt if the cards carry 8% rates? Santa Claus Ben will think of something.

    =============================================

    Now there’s an idea. Time for the Fed to issue its own credit card. It is only a matter of time

  69. dss says:

    How can anyone judge what retail sales really are going to be with so much internet shopping being done these days. Free shipping, some times no sales tax and a bargain price? What’s not to like? Why go to the mall when the mall comes to you. So the anecdotal “count the cars in the parking lot” trick is not going to reflect what is happening in retail including internet sales

    Secondly, people forget that the vast majority of Americans are still employed. Underwear, socks, shoes and other necessities wear out, they need to be replaced and when the prices are so good, people will buy. Electronics are always popular, even in the worst of times. Shoppers have been waiting for these bargains to shop, I found a coat that was originally $168.00, marked down to $99.00 and then received an additional 40% off to $59.00 in an upscale mall. The mall itself on a Monday was pretty deserted, but the bargains were there.

    And since most of the commentators here are men, how many of them actually are out there in the trenches shopping for their families? The shopping habits of men vs. women are quite different.