How long will the nation shoppers resolve to stop spending? ~ Brand Mix

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How long will the nation shoppers resolve to stop spending?

Photo: chrisphoto

We're two weeks into the New Year. Still feeling good and strong about those New Year resolutions? Sliding on anything yet? Or still confident that, this time, you're really going to make it and stop/reduce/cut out whatever long-held bad habit you've chosen to tackle?

Lee Scott, the outgoing CEO of Wal-Mart, thinks that the recession may have caused a "fundamental change" in our shopping habits. Speaking at the National Retail Federation's (NRF) convention of retailers and suppliers in New York, Scott cited a recent meeting with young shoppers. They told him they aren't eating out or going to the movies any more. "Everyone has given up something and said how good they felt about it," he said.

If over-consumption is the bad habit that Americans have been indulging in, Scott sides with those who believe that the recession will give us the resolve to change. I don't agree. I think that our resolve will fade away and we'll go back to shopping a go-go just as soon as the economy lets us. Or perhaps a couple of weeks afterwards.

As I mentioned in my weekend post, we've been here before. Back in the 70s, in a previous recession, Jimmy Carter said: "We’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning." He was wrong. Do we really think things will be different this time after the fun of frugality wears off?


Jeffry Pilcher said...

Have Americans "resolved" to stop spending? If one believes that Americans didn't willfully choose a frugal mindset -- that it was foisted on them as credit dried up and the economy soured -- then one surely believes we'll be back to our old spending/borrowing habits just as soon as we are able... if we are ever able again.

There is a fundamental question of economics underlying this situation: Has our economy grown addicted to a level of consumer borrowing that outstrips income? If so, we will either continue to have cyclical economic problems, or we'll need a fundamental reset in our buying behavior.

If the recession worsens or is protracted over a long period of time, we could see some shift in people's attitudes and actions. But even then, I expect that there are plenty of people are comfortable living irresponsibly.

Denise Lee Yohn said...

hmmm, i just don't know...

on the one hand, you could argue that the new more socially-conscious generation that drives the trends today might be more committed to a scaled-back lifestyle than the repressed boomers who set the tone in the 80's.

on the other, it seems our culture cycles through the adoption->saturation->abandonment of trends so quickly these days that a more frugal lifestyle is simply today's fashion statement.

all i know is, when gas prices soared over the summer, i changed my attitudes and behavior, driving less/walking more/feeling more guilty when i "had" to drive my suv -- all based on the premise that saving money was the priority but my newly found habits were also good for the environment -- but now, i'm back to my old drive-everywhere self and my concern over emissions has decreased in the same measure as the bill when i fill up my tank!

Jeffry Pilcher said...

While discussing a potential shift to "frugality," a colleague said this to me yesterday: "Americans have very short memories."

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