This evening I spoke with the owner of a wine store. He said that my sales are actually up compared to the last three months of last year. I’m getting a lot more customers buying by the glass, as opposed to people coming in to buy bottles and take them home. I get a better profit on the per-glass sales.
Sure, this isn’t anything as scientific as something Angelo Angelou could put together in Central Texas. Or what the big marketing firms could query and sort on. But it is, I think, a fair snapshot of life in this new economy. People are spending about the same, but smarter, or in different ways, or more tactically. That bottle at home is better spent as three glasses at the bar, with friends. Topping off the gas tank feels less like a fill-up, even if the cost is the same (or greater, factoring the time to drive to the station).
The next hit will come when the retail credit dries up, and that, I think is part of why the government today focused its energy on unfreezing the credit markets. Because 80% of retail sales happen between October 15 and January 15, and what happens in the next three months will permanently impact who is in business, and how they will sell, in nine months. And without ready credit for retailers to purchase goods to sell, or factors to handle the accounts receivable from credit card sales, this will probably be the first true “Black” holiday period in a very long time.