Posts filed under “Retail”

Counter-Cyclical Spending (during recessions)

One of the things I hate about a secular bull market — especially towards its rampaging tail end — is how everyone and everything gets silly. Money and champagne flows, conspicuous consumption is on full display. I recall people — literally — dancing on bars during the late 90s in NYC.

To be sure, Fed Chair Alan Greenspan was not going to be the spoilsport and take away the punchbowl. Every one was having a good old time.

Except the people who knew. Those worrywarts who looked at price, at valuations, who are familiar with market history and understood mean reversion. These folks were aware of what was going to come next.

I hated the Manhattan party atmosphere in 1999; it was obvious how (but not precisely when)  it was going to end: Badly. The prices paid for baubles, the reckless, conspicuous consumption, and ostentatious displays of wealth — paying more than full retail — it was all a symptom of way too much money sloshing around.

Mal-investments were everywhere, and prices became stupid — for cars, for apartments, and of course, for equities.

That is, to say the least, no longer the case (equities excepted).

Prices have plummeted, consumers are de-leveraging, and cash is king, For those of you consumers who are value sensitive — and still have jobs — this current environment is far more attractive a period of time to acquire goods and services than the mayhem at bull market tops. Everything is priced to sell.

I started thinking about this issue in mid 2008 when a wealthy client had said the following to me: “Barry, I appreciate you steering us away from trouble during this mess, but your commentary is so relentlessly negative, its a bummer to read. What can you tell me that is not utterly depressing?”

Now, this gentlemen measures his wealth in GDP of small countries, and while we have many similar interests — cars, watches, boats, travel, music, etc. — his “collections” are insane, museum quality work. (I have an old SL, he has a airplane hanger full of fully restored 196os Ferraris; I have a few nice antique watches, he has million dollar time pieces).  So my advice –  I mentioned this on Tech Ticker — was as follows: “Make a wish list of what you have wanted to own, but were unwilling to pay top dollar for. Could be real estate, art work, collectible autos, jewels, sports franchises. Bid 50% of the peak market price. Then sit back to see what happens.”

He thanked me for that, and acquired a number of items at a hefty discount to market value.

Which leads me to this question for us mortals: Are any of you readers going on a “spending spree” of sorts? What are you purchasing? What assets have dropped enough in price that they have tempted you to step up to the plate and buy?

Since the crisis began, I have advised clients to consider buying:

-Homes, Vacation Properties
-Renovations, Construction, Extensions
-Vacations, Travel
-Collectible Automobiles
-Investments, Stocks, funds
-Boats, Planes, recreational vehicles
-Art & Sculptures?
-Audio, Video, Electronics, Computers.
-Watches, Jewelry (especially those of Precious Metals)

Fortunately, I avoided temptation and did not make many dumb purchases at the top. That made me more comfortable buying distressed assets after the prices collapsed. And, putting my money where my mouth is, I have made many purchases this down cycle (no Gulfstream, but much of the rest of the list).

So my question is simply this: What are you buying?


For those of you who want to be anonymous, send me an email at thebigpicture at optonline dot net, and I will assemble a list of the most interesting purchases for a future post . . .

Category: Consumer Spending, Cycles, Psychology, Retail

February’s Most Popular Books on TBP

One of the cool things about Amazon is the ability to track what gets purchased when referred from the site. For privacy reasons, I only know what was purchased, not by who — so whoever bought Ginger Lynn’s The Pleasure Hunt video, your secret is safe). I find it intriguing to see which books were…Read More

Category: Bailout Nation, Retail

Economic Cheat Sheet: Using Retail Sales to Forecast GDP & NFP

Of all the various economic indicators and data points out there, is there one that has any special ability to forecast future economic activity? Or defined more broadly, what gives the best insight into future GDP ? That is the question Dave Livingston of Llinlithgow Associates (he blogs at BizzXceleration) was considering perusing when he…Read More

Category: Economy, Retail

Is Patrick Byrne America’s Nastiest Dumbest CEO?

Our story so far: Back on December 9th, my young niece informed me (via Facebook) that she had discovered her name publicly posted on a DeepCapture website. That was the first discovery of the “Facebook Friends scraping” operation. My assumption was that the asshats at DeepCapture had exploited a Facebook security lapse, and grabbed all…Read More

Category: Legal, Really, really bad calls, Retail

Last Minute Shopping Ideas

The response to Sundays snowbound shopping list was (surprisingly) encouraging; Many of of you commented or emailed with even more gift ideas; Quite a few of you made specific suggestions in comments. A few of you even asked for more ideas. In the spirit of (last minute) gift giving, consider this list — many of…Read More

Category: Consumer Spending, Music, Retail

Do Appliance Sales Signal the Start of Housing Uptick?

Its funny how two people can look at the same data point and draw opposite conclusions. That’s what makes a horse race. Sometimes, an inherent bias or wishful thinking comes into play; other times, its partisan ideology getting in the way. And in some instances, a little bit of common sense goes a long way….Read More

Category: Data Analysis, Retail

Snowbound Shopping

Fun and tiring day. We dug out early in the morning, then took the beasts for a romp in the snow. The puppy — now almost 1 — never saw a foot of snow before. (loved it!) We left the house about 11:30 for Dim Sum brunch. The roads were all plowed, but mostly empty….Read More

Category: Consumer Spending, Retail, Web/Tech

Last Minute Shopping List !

Back home from Florida — its a 60 degree temperature swing from Fort Lauderdale to NYC — and I suddenly realize that I have some shopping to do. I assume many of you are also behind on this most wasteful holiday of consumer spending frenzy. Here are a few items that are on my list…Read More

Category: Consumer Spending, Retail

The King Report: No, Retail Sales Did Not Improve in November

> ~~~ How can US beancounters report twice the expected retail sales when all private data and state tax data shows that November had tepid if not soft retail sales – even with the easy y/y comparisons? FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2009, AT 8:30 A.M. EST ADVANCE MONTHLY SALES FOR RETAIL AND FOOD…Read More

Category: Data Analysis, Retail, Think Tank


Whatever little patience I had with Patrick Byrne, and his overzealous friends at, has now become officially exhausted. As I noted last week ( Scraping Facebook Friends), this group found the Facebook friends and relatives of any journalist, critic, fund manager or blogger who dared to  criticize Overstock (or Deep Capture), and then published…Read More

Category: Financial Press, Retail, Short Selling, Web/Tech