Tally: 7 deaths, 90 injuries from shootings, stabbings, tramplings, fights, pepper sprayings.... “Only in America people trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have,” a tweet explained. It’s been tough for retailers too.
Entries in Consumer (43)
The first thing I noticed after I’d removed the glossy brochure from the envelope was the crisp $5 bill. I’m a sucker for free money. After peeling it off the letter, I started reading. It was from Google and involved a lot more money – in return for just about all my private data.
Now “trade agreements” are negotiated behind sealed doors, without public oversight, beyond the reach of Congress. The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is secret, but some sections were leaked. It deals with trade only on the margins. Corporate interests dominate. It mocks democracy, establishes kangaroo courts, and taxpayers are on the hook.
By James Murray: Computer power has reached the point where almost anything can be automated, and computer pricing has reached the point where it is profitable to do so. The world is undergoing a mega shift, and governments have no clue how to handle the problem.
Consumer spending hasn't exactly been hot. With one big exception: auto sales. At 20% of total retail sales, they’ve been phenomenal and propped up overall retail sales. But in September, there was a downdraft. The calendar got blamed. And in October, there was the government shutdown and debt-ceiling debacle. And now all bets are off.
Selling airline tickets to our increasingly pauperized consumers is an art. And hiding price increases is an even greater art. While there are people who don’t worry about the price as they luxuriate in first class, others aren’t so lucky. For them, the industry has a special treat: squeezing their hips.
The amount in Federal assistance received by families of workers in the fast-food industry, who’re dogged by low wages, part-time work, and scarce employer-provided health benefits, amounted to $7 billion per year. A way for the $200 billion industry to shuffle off part of the costs of doing business to the hapless taxpayer.
It is starting to show up in the numbers: the debt-ceiling and government-shutdown debacles are worming their way into the economy. Americans blame the already single most disparaged institution, Congress, for it and have started to react economically. Clicks of seatbelts being fastened can be heard around the world.
How much have Americans received of the nearly $3 trillion the Fed printed since the financial crisis? The recipients included JPMorgan, now negotiating to settle its various mortgage scams for $11 billion; it made $53.2 billion in profits over the last three years. American consumers weren’t so lucky. And Wal-Mart shoppers have been hit the hardest.
Men’s Warehouse joined the crowd of revenue-challenged retailers when it reported results and cut guidance. Revenue fell, profit plunged. As with its peers that had already reported, it’s not so much that sales were crummy – gosh, they were – but that the excuses they came up with to keep their stocks from crashing were even crummier.
Men’s retailer Jos. A. Bank warned that sales in the quarter plunged 11%. OK, it suffered from management foul-ups, goofy marketing, obnoxious ads, and – at least at the store I looked at – dusty shirts on the shelf. But it isn’t an outlier. It’s the latest entry on a laundry list of revenue-challenged retailers whose woes are spreading relentlessly across the US.
By Dennis Miller, of Miller's Money: I don't know which is worse: realizing you cannot keep a promise you made to someone who was important to you, or being the person who relied on the promise when you finally grasp that it is not going to be kept. Turns out, neither corporations nor governments can keep the pension promises they made.
Home prices have jumped around the country, in some cities over 20% on an annual basis. “Recovery of the housing market,” is what this phenomenon is called. Everyone from President Obama on down has taken credit for it, particularly the Fed, whose handiwork this is. But there is a very ugly fly in this illusory ointment.
By Michael Lombardi for Profit Confidential: The retail sector in the US acts as a gauge of consumer spending. When it shows weakness, consumer spending is at risk, a potential drag on the economy. As it stands, the retail sector is providing troubling news on consumer spending. And the key back-to-school retail season is already in deep trouble.
People in the upper income categories, those who don’t have to worry about the price of toilet paper, have seen their incomes rise over the years. The rest are in a downward spiral: median household income, adjusted for inflation, has dropped 7.8% since 2000. The lower end got hit the hardest. For these folks, tissue makers have a special strategy: desheeting.
Contributed by Michael Lombardi, Profit Confidential: After the initial GDP estimates for the first quarter, optimism struck and markets rallied. Everything was headed in the right direction! But the final revision showed that the economy grew at just 1.8% – that's 25% lower than the previous estimate. Due to consumer spending and exports. And now, interest rates are rising!
The “March Against Monsanto” in 52 countries, an unapproved strain of its genetically modified wheat growing on its own in Oregon, cancelled wheat export orders.... A rough week for Monsanto. Now it threw in the towel in Europe where its deep pockets and mastery of lobbying had failed: “It’s counterproductive to fight against windmills,” it explained.
The good old days are back. Those days when money grew on trees: home prices jumped 10.9% year over year, based on data through March 2013. The usual suspects: Phoenix soared 22.5%, San Francisco 22.2%, Las Vegas 20.6%. You can’t lose money in real estate. I’m already hearing it again.
In theory, a class-action lawsuit allows the little guy to stand up to a big corporation and seek redress. Alone, the little guy wouldn’t have the means. Justice comes down to money, and class-action lawsuits add leverage. In theory. It’s a world-famous American product, infested with flaws. And it’s about to be imported by ... France!
Contributed by Ross Thomas. As the value of a Bitcoin soars and dives and soars in mega-percentages, and as perfectly sane people wonder what the heck it is and then suddenly jump on the bandwagon with both feet, Ross, a computer security researcher and software developer, pokes around in its ugly innards.