Saturday, November 22, 2008

Don’t the Christmas commercials seem particularly forced this year?

Several I have seen really are almost manic in the desire to impart that Christmas (read “shopping”) spirit. All you have to do is look at the retailers themselves and look at all the stores that are closing or corporations going out of business completely to see that things aren’t really that normal this year. Here is a list of some retailers whose Christmas (read “shopping”) season won’t save them.

- Circuit City stores... TBD

- Ann Taylor - 117 stores nationwide are to be shuttered

- Lane Bryant

- Fashion Bug

- Catherine's to close 150 store nationwide

- Eddie Bauer to close stores 27 stores and more after January

- Cache will close all stores

- Talbots closing down all stores

- J. Jill closing all stores

- GAP closing 85 stores

- Footlocker closing 140 stores more to close after January

- Wickes Furniture closing down

- Levitz closing down remaining stores

- Bombay closing remaining stores

- Zales closing down 82 stores and 105 after January

- Whitehall closing all stores

- Piercing Pagoda closing all stores

- Disney closing 98 stores and will close more after January.

- Home Depot closing 15 stores 1 in NJ (New Brunswick)

- Macys to close 9 stores after January

- Linens and Things closing all stores

- Movie Galley Closing all stores

- Pacific Sunware closing stores

- Pep Boys Closing 33 stores

- Sprint/ Nextel closing 133 stores

- JC Penney closing a number of stores after January

- Ethan Allen closing down 12 stores.

- Wilson Leather closing down all stores

- Sharper Image closing down all stores

- K B Toys closing 356 stores

- Lowes to close down some stores

- Dillard's to close some stores.

I guess the "Magic Kingdom" isn't totally insulated from reality... And those are only the retailers. This is hitting all aspects of the economy. Boeing recently announced they may be looking at layoffs next year, even though they have a huge backlog in the commercial airplane orders. DHL is closing down its U.S. operations. Washington Mutual, or what is left of what used to be WaMu, announced massive layoffs here in Washington state.

It’s really difficult to get that Christmas spirit (read “opening up your wallet and spending your hard earned cash) given this environment. If you are one of the unfortunate many that have lost or may lose your job in the near future, I wish you luck and I hope that you land on your feet soon. But I have seen some recent predictions that unemployment in the U.S. may hit 10%. That’s a number not seen since the 1930’s. And even if you aren’t in danger of being unemployed, you might not be too willing to be a huge spender and run up a large bill on your credit cards this year, like so many people used to do in the past, given that your 401K is worth about 50% less than it used to be.

This is looking like a very large downward spiral, with negative feedback that continually reinforces itself. I guess I never really realized how interdependent everything is on a large amount of people going out and buying stuff, much of it they may or may not need. It’s a consumer society indeed. It’s all a very elaborate house of cards that was wobbly to begin with. The fact that a large number of fat cats in the banking and house loan “industry” wanted to soak the consumers and make as large amount of money as they could, and the fact that they had willing marks on the consuming end who wanted stuff (like houses they couldn’t afford and SUV’s they had to refinance their existing house loans to buy) for pulling out those few cards on the corner that started this whole thing on its way to collapse.

Let’s hope that this plays itself out soon and there’s something left to salvage.

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