8 : Retail is not as bad as they want us to think

As we fly up on another Christmas, the news is flooded with stories about the disappointing sales at the retailers. It amazes me that no one is shopping and I've seen many theories. The price of gas is through the roof. Grocery prices are skyrocketing. Lead paint has us all in hysteria. Me? I have three probable theories.

We all have a lot of crap and the other big trend these days is to simplify. Oprah recently profiled hoarders. These are the people that buy everything and never throw anything away. A few years ago, we moved from Cincinnati to Nashville and had a huge truck filled to the top. I realized unpacking that we didn't need near the amount of junk we had and I've worked and worked since to have less and less baggage. I've bought only 3 or 4 dvd's in the past year - only 1 cd. What's the point of buying something like that and letting it sit. So, theory #1 - there is a group of people today just sick of accumulating more crap.

Theory #2: It's a load of lies. Retail is in better shape than ever. How do I know? There are stores EVERYWHERE. We have about 25,000 people here in my town and we have a WalMart supercenter, a Big K Mart, Big Lots, Kroger, Publix, Office Max, Radio Shack, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.. When I grew up, life was a bit different. I lived in a similar size town growing up and when you wanted a big store, you drove 20 miles to East Nashville and shopped at exciting places like KMart, Big K, and Zayre.

Of course, we also had the mall and that was reserved for really special shopping (Christmas and Birthdays). See, if we wanted a special item in 1979, we waited for it. Today, that special item is just 4 miles away at WalMart. The temptation is there and we can impulse buy immediately. No need to wait! Charge it! You may be shocked, but getting a credit card in the late 70's and early 80's was just about impossible.

So, we've just diluted the market so badly and we're so impulsive that we've spread the dollars around and we're spending more than ever. Trust me - I didn't have a fourth of what my kids have now when I was growing up and I felt rich compared to some of my friends. The money is out there - but instead of a hand-full of retailers splitting it up, there are hundreds and then factor in the internet. Whoa doggie! Ho ho whoa!