The retail doomsayers are predicting a cataclysmic Christmas season. The stores are bracing for the worst. The gloom is so thick that we’re thinking this Christmas shopping season should be subtitled “The Day the Mall Stood Still.”But remember last holiday season? The experts tripped over themselves with conflicting predictions day by day. We got whiplash trying to keep track.
There’s a good reason for this uncertainty. Experts don’t really know what people will do.
They know what people say they will spend or not spend. But when it comes down to it, every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a laboratory of capitalism, a revelation. Millions of Americans making billions of individual decisions based on thousands of shreds of information_perceptions, fear, guilt, obligation, expectation and plain old greed. Will they, or won’t they, buy a Blu-ray machine, an American Girl doll, an Xbox?
Heck if we know.
We do know enough to predict that some of the expert predictions will be wrong. There’s a chance that this could be a better holiday season than anyone expects right now.
Sure, people are spooked. Yes, they feel poorer because their retirement account is ragged and panting. And yes, people are worried about layoffs. But that’s the great thing about this country. We don’t always follow the plan. We spend, sometimes on a whim.
The Apostles of Less preach about voluntary simplicity, of paring down one’s possessions to 100 things. Intriguing ideas that have drawn small, loyal followings. But not most of America. That’s because most of America is about abundance, not denial. This is the land of the designer mud room and the four-car garage. Of gadgets that plug into your computer just to keep your Diet Coke cold while you Twitter.
More is never enough.
The American consumer is a force of nature that cannot be restrained for long. There’s a lull now. But were you in a mall parking lot on Friday? Bet it was jammed. Someone is in the stores. They may not be buying yet. But wait.
In recent days, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said that the U.S. had “turned a corner” in averting a financial collapse, even though more work needs to be done. So let’s get to it.
America, do what you do best: Plunder stores like those feral brides-to-be who rush the floor at Filene’s Basement to grab those deeply discounted wedding gowns.
Leave no store untrammeled.
There probably isn’t one American in a million who can understand exactly how this financial mess happened. But we do know this much: America started this economic mess. And Americans can end it. See you at the mall.