Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rant #162: Black Sales In the Sunset

So retail sales weren’t as bad as expected during the days leading up to Christmas.

According to MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, which tracks all forms of payment, including cash, retail sales rose 3.6 percent from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, versus a 3.2 percent drop which was experienced during the 2008 holiday season.

Adjusting for the extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas that was experienced in 2009, the percentage gain was closer to 1 percent.

For a season that was supposed to be so bad, people found a way to buy as many big-ticket purchases as they could muster. They generally stayed away from credit cards, and used cash at hand.

But they made those purchases, of TVs, gaming units, and other items that cost the proverbial “pretty penny.”

Is the recession over? Probably not. I think people shopped around for the best price, and then spent it, rather than what they did last year, when they simply ignored such items.

We still have a large unemployment level in this country, and I don’t know if it is getting better as 2010 approaches. People are not spending like they once did, so I am pretty convinced that the recession is still here, even though we pay actors $20 million a movie, and athletes’ salaries are in another dimension.

They always use teachers as a barometer, but some teachers make six-figure salaries, or at least real good five-figure salaries.

Using myself as a guide, I am underpaid, by my standards of course. And so is my wife.

Based on that, when I can go into a store and not worry about the cost of something I want—including food—then the recession is over.

And not before.

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