Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who Goes Shopping?

The American Future
I remember the time where shopping used to pass for entertainment for a great many people in this country. You just go to a store, and there were millions of them selling God knows what, and buy shit you didn't need and maybe wanted at the time but don't want anymore. Look around your house: look how much stuff you have . . . now start eliminating all the stuff that you don't need. How much of it is left? What you've got surrounding you in your house, brothers and sisters, is all the evidence of the sterling work you've accomplished in keeping the myth of the viability of capitalism alive. Endless expansion. That's the basic premise of it. Capitalism "works" because there's more and more of everything all the time. Isn't "economic growth" the very foundation of every idea the politicians have? The unquestioning acceptance that everything will be fine if we just can get back to those lovely times of economic growth every year, year after year.

Well, we're in a different universe now. The answer to the question posed in the title is: fewer and fewer . . . and accelerating. You could do worse than reading the entire piece I've lifted this snippet from. It is not encouraging. We're whistling through a graveyard . . .

The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.

Once the Wall Street created fraud collapsed and the waves of delusion subsided, retailers have been revealed to be swimming naked. Their relentless expansion, based on exponential growth, cannibalized itself, new store construction ground to a halt, sales and profits have declined, and the inevitable closing of thousands of stores has begun. 

The implications of this long and winding road to ruin are far reaching. Store closings so far have only been a ripple compared to the tsunami coming to right size the industry for a future of declining spending. Over the next five to ten years, tens of thousands of stores will be shuttered. Companies like JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack will go bankrupt and become historical footnotes. Considering retail employment is lower today than it was in 2002 before the massive retail expansion, the future will see in excess of 1 million retail workers lose their jobs. Bernanke and the Feds have allowed real estate mall owners to roll over non-performing loans and pretend they are generating enough rental income to cover their loan obligations. As more stores go dark, this little game of extend and pretend will come to an end. (source)
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