Retail Fails, On Cars and Guitars

imageThe picture over to the right is finally revealing what we were mumbling months ago when (in a trance) I wrote about how at some point the last possible person would have bought their sixth automobile.  When this happened, I was expecting there would be no more parking places and we’d enter the jaws of economic collapse. 

We’re getting closer…..closer….closer.  And people like us are to blame.  We look at core retail (retail sales less autos) the same way the Fed looks at inflation (reported inflation less food and energy).  Their way is delusional, mine is not.  (What’d you expect me to say?)

We’ve been half-expecting retail sales to slide down the slopes into oblivion for quite a while now.  For a couple of good reasons all of which is because of bass, four-string, electric guitars.  Lemme ‘splain you, Lucy:

    • Look around your house and ask yourself (language alert!) “Do I have enough shit?”  We did this the other day and decided that the one last toy we didn’t have was a four-string bass guitar to dink around with in our home studio. 
    • The second MPQ (major pertinent question) is “Can I buy used instead of buying something new?”  In our case, the same exact $200+ new cheapo electric bass we could buy from any of 10-20 online instrument discounters new at retail, was available used from a Guitar Center up in Minnesonsin somewhere  for $99.95 – so we opted for the  the used one.  How many people go on to out-Jump Van Halen at age 66?  Zero, but why not try?
    • The third MPQ is whether we need something at all.  The answer in all honesty, is “Prolly not…”  But if it’s a WTF moment and if you don’t owe anyone one anything, why not toughen up the left fingertips so someone will have something nice to say about you when your funeral shows up – even if it’s as little as “Shit, dude, what a riff the old man developed recently…

    Daughter Denise (the real musician in the family) was appalled.  “Dad, the CEO of Guitar Center probably rides around in a jet and why don’t you get something that’s a real instrument so you can get some quality sound out of it?  Like my old Gibson…or my boyfriends [something or other]?”

    The simple answer is I don’t play guitar OR bass.  But we don’t have time to read, either, but that doesn’t stop us from owning close to a thousand books…because that’s the AMERICAN thing to do…spend, spend, spend and keep this pony running…

    But that’s what makes this a perfect metaphor for America and where we are as a country, don’t you see?  Serious consumer super-saturation.  In other words, few of us have enough  time to use all our existing (language alert!) shit even once a week, let alone, often enough to have it actually make sense to own it, let alone BUY it.

    That, and the Feral Reserves report last Friday on Consumer Debt says credit card use is up at an annualized rate of only 4.8% (a tad more than inflation, but likely more people are buying food on credit cards…) while non-revolving (student loans and mobile homes and such) had actually gone negative.

    It logically follows that with the Baltic Dry Cargo Index stuck in park (its down to 2009 levels) there should be some signs of spending falling apart.  I mean besides the inventory numbers lately taking off to the upside.

    So that’s reality at the street.

    Now, with your ViseGrips at the ready, hand me the envelope and let’s see what the latest is from the US Department of Delusions, shall we?  Ooops…make that Census Bureau/commerce, but same diff:

    “The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for February, adjusted for seasonal variation
    and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $437.0 billion, a decrease of 0.6 percent (±0.5%) from the previous month, but up 1.7 percent (±0.9%) above February 2014. Total sales for the

    December 2014 through February 2015 period were up 2.9 percent (±0.7%) from the same period a year ago. The December 2014 to January 2015 percent change was unrevised from -0.8 percent (±0.3%).
    Retail trade sales were down 0.6 (±0.5%) from January 2015, but up 1.0 percent (±0.9%) above last year.

    Nonstore retailers were up 8.6 (±2.1%) from
    February 2014 and food services and drinking places were up 7.7 percent (±3.5%) from last year. Gasoline stations were down 23.0 percent (±1.6%)
    from the previous year.

    I’ll leave it to your best judgment to discern where Ultimate Reality from On High (URFOH) is on this stuff.  I just know that after living on a 40-foot sailboat for 10-years where my entire life fit in 200 square feet with lots of leftover space for sailing gear, that now on almost 30-acres and three buildings, I am swimming in crap, that we can’t people the only people having Device Overflow Errors.

    Seriously:  Elaine remarked on it just the other day: “Who’s got a counter long enough to set up all these appliances on…and what’s the point of having them if you have to go appliance diving in order to make something?”

    And then she went back to her old trusty cast iron skillet and made whatever it was in that.  But that, my friend, is how base guitars, kitchen appliances, and incredibly long kitchen counters all spring to life and it’s what drives government reports.

    It’s also why I self-medicate.

    The Stock Market Will Rise Today, Anyway


    What?  Weren’t you paying attention earlier this week when I was all red in the face and screaming (gibberish) about comparative values?

    The US dollar is down a bit, simple as that.  Dollar goes down means it will take more dollars to “buy a chit” in this insane version of reality.  Chit prices go up when there is more money sloshing around (meaning the dollar value goes down) and Chit prices go down, when there is less money chasing chits (when the dollar goes up).

    Of course it also ebbs and flows based on competing craps games which are running in Asia.  There, markets were up, so more “money” must be sloshing.  And in Europe this morning, the big winner is the UK which had its butt kicked over the past week.

    I’d like to thank the reader who sent me a note about how economist Paul Krugman has been more right than most about the current ebbs and flows.

    But I have to point out that anyone who holds to being a real economist and is not personally a  gazillionaire, is suspect, since if they were gazillioniares who have everything figured out, they’d be retired to their own island in Tahiti with hot and cold running center-folds. 

    FINE PRINT: This last bit was NOT a sexist remark:  you get to choose the magazines.  Being happily married, I’d choose Road&Track, Popular Science, Home Handyman, or QST center-folds if they had ‘em.  OK, maybe not R&T because my island would be too small for a road course, but I digress…meanwhile, back at Reality (the URFOH if you’re following this morning’s wildly rambling column)…


    Like this is going to make any more sense, but the Rasmussen Poll folks figure that if you take Hillary (what email?) Clinton out of the 2016 line-up, it would be an Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden ticket for the dems.

    Clinton, in artistocratica fashion, is managing to take herself out of the running which is fairly graceful to watch from a karmic standpoint.  Thems that gives, gets.

    New, Secret Government Agency?

    With word out of Ferguson about two police officers getting shot during the latest round of demonstrations, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s not a super-secret US Department of Polarization somewhere.

    What could have been a victory dance turns into this?  Somehow, I’m not following…


    You know, sometimes I feel like I’m bashing you in the head with this stuff, but the hottest flashpoint on the planet seems to be EUkraine because peace and harmony has failed to show up for it’s planned club date after the old government went to for the EU sales pitch.  Here’s a good CNBC piece on how they’re not out of the woods yet.

    Meantime, Vlad Putin death rumors could mean Russia is busy prepping for something big…


    OK, well enough of a ramble for this morning.  Say, did I ever tell you the one about the really talented musician who was able to play with himself?

    4 thoughts on “Retail Fails, On Cars and Guitars”

    1. George, this is the second time you’ve recently mentioned a previous book you wrote, “Best Book Ever on Sales.” Is there any way to get a copy of this. Tried searching the Peoplenomics archives, but unsure of title of correct post.

      • If I can remember (on dif computer at moment) I will email you a copy – one of the membership bennies of Peoplenomics…

    2. Dear George,

      Elaine is so right about the appliances. I have a bunch–the milkshake maker and the bread machine to name two right off the top of my head–that are still packed away from the last move which was nine years ago. I haven’t missed them. My efforts to pawn them off on unsuspecting nieces, nephews, siblings, and the lone son have been unsuccessful. They’re on to the game.

      And you’re absolutely right about the volume of “stuff” packed into our lives. But it’s even bigger than personal consumer supersaturation. The husband and I are pushing 60. We spent 40 years acquiring the things we wanted for our home. Nice, quality, built to last forever stuff. We need absolutely nothing else at this point in our lives. In fact, we’d kinda like to downsize the collection a bit, but…

      My parents are in their mid-eighties. The husband’s mother is in her 90s. They spent their lives acquiring nice, quality, built to last forever stuff. As did their parents and grandparents before them–which our parents inherited and have dutifully kept to pass on to the next generation–which would be us.

      We’re talking about a massive wave of inherited stuff due to hit during the next 10 years or so. I have three bedroom suites already; I don’t need seven more. I look around our parents’ homes and have to fight a sense of overwhelming panic. What are we going to do with all this stuff?

      Pawn off what we can on our siblings? Who have houses full of their own acquired stuff? To the aforementioned nieces, nephews, and the one lone son? One niece is teaching abroad, one niece is a career and residential nomad, four nephews and a niece are under the age of 10. The lone son is career Navy. Not a settled household in the bunch and not much hope of any settling any time soon or soon enough.

      What we’re dealing with here is multi-generational consumer supersaturation. 4 generations of stuff and nowhere to put it, give it, or send it. And the husband and I aren’t alone in this. All of our friends are facing the same grim reality.

      Do we rent a giant warehouse to store all this stuff in the hope that eventually the next generation settles down and has homes of their own? Nope. Mobility is the name of the future employment game and this next generation isn’t going to be able to settle in one place as we did. They travel fast and light and in that world great-great-grandma’s Duncan Phyfe dining room table and 8 chairs is nothing more than a big, giant anchor.

      Maybe we buy a big house and open a B&B or an upscale boarding house? Not something I’ve ever aspired to doing and charting a new life course just for the sake of keeping the avalanche of stuff…

      No,there’s going to be no real choice in the end but to save the meaningful pieces–like the handcarved sandalwood table Grandpa brought back from North Africa at the end of WWII and Grandma’s Baleek china and her sterling silver– but the rest, the seven bedroom suites, etc–will end up at an estate auction. And that’s seven bedroom suites, etc that someone isn’t going to have buy new from the furniture retailer down the street.

      Multiply that seven by the multitudes of other people selling their inherited seven bedroom suites and all the household etc that goes with it…

      Not that I want to give the PTB any ideas, but unless there’s a sudden national bonfire of epic proportions, it will be a least a generation after us Boomers have passed before there will be even the slightest hope for the return of retail glory days.

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