Monday, May 4, 2009

For Mothers Day retailers, it's not the thought that counts

The latest word from the National Retail Federation is a head scratcher. There's a recession on and Mom will understand if we're chintzier with the celebration next weekend, the trade group says.

So, do they really believe that or are they trying to guilt trip us into spending more to help revive the economy? Retail spending traditionally accounts for about two thirds of U.S. economic activity and, as economist Paul Krugman reminds us, too much of anything, including thrift, isn't good for us.

And, boy, are we getting thrifty. I saw something in a Wal-Mart a couple Sundays ago I've never seen before. Six open checkout lanes and not one customer in any of them. I wished I were picking up more than shoe strings and shaving cream; Wal-Mart probably wishes so too. Officially, the retailing giant insists things are looking okay, all things considered.

Other retailers are hurting, though. Retailers hope things will pick up later this year. We'll find out next week if sales are making any recovery from a big drop in March. I'm betting any recovery will modest. Googling frugal in fashion will get you 214,000 hits to choose from.

And I'm checking out dollar stores to see if their prices beat Wal-Mart.

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