November 6, 2008

Spending, saving, and rocking out in the crummy economy

From a WSJ article on falling consumer spending among the elite:

Splurging doesn't feel as good as it used to. At the Shoe Box, a luxury accessories store on New York's Upper East Side, a good customer recently bought $3,000 of shoes and boots, says Jessica Denholtz, the store's buyer. Five minutes later, the woman walked back in the store and returned every last item, saying, "I just can't do this anymore."

This is usually where some blogger would snark on about how none of the rest of us can afford the $800 shoes we've been buying every week either. But really, think of all the useless junk you've been stuffing into your own closet over the past couple years -- a new snowboard, top-of-the-line fly fishing rod, a Hummer in the driveway, etc. Even the unfashionable are slaves to their social circle's trends. Some guy had to be the first on the block to get a plasma screen TV.

In another sign of the times, more people are looking for cheap crap on the internet, according to a Google Trends search for "on sale". There's a peak leading up to Christmas of every year, but the peaks and valleys have gotten noticeably higher overall in the past year. You wouldn't expect such an abrupt increase if it were simply that more and more people are going to the internet, rather than the thrift store, to look for cheap stuff. It's not like the internet just became popular. This holds more broadly; again from the WSJ article:

The digital marketing agency Zeta Interactive has measured a distinct increase in the buzz -- recorded by the volume of Web-site and blog postings -- surrounding discount retail sites. According to Zeta's research, for instance, discounter received 25% more buzz in October than in September, while full-priced received 19% fewer postings on blogs and Web sites.

On the bright side, though, it seems that -- at least since the modern music industry has established itself -- a recession is followed a year or so later by a wave of great music. See this list of recessions. This probably deserves a post and comments-fest of its own, but briefly:

Recession ends... / Cool new wave of music catches on...

1975 / 1976 (punk and disco)

1982 / 1983 (dance pop, new wave, new romantics)

1991 / 1992 (alternative, pop punk, shoegaze)

2001 / 2002 (post-punk, garage band, and dance revivals)

It usually peaks a year or so after it catches on, burns out another year or two after that, and then we get a bunch of shitty music again when the economy enters a booming stage. So let's assume the economy really goes to hell in 2009 -- at least by 2010, it'll be worth turning on the radio again. (And yes, I realize that these genres didn't actually start in the years above, but that's when they became really popular.)

On that note, I'll pour one out for my homies, with a 2007 song that captures the decadent nature of the last several years.

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