On this great day of purchasing, when the tides of consumerism grow into a mighty tidal wave, the New York Times notes:
Donna Lhopitault, 38, stood in line at the Toys R Us in Times Square for four hours this morning to secure a deeply discounted Nintendo Wii video game system for $250 — more than half the price she has seen it online.
In the past, Ms. Lhopitault, a financial adviser with two kids, has splurged at high-end stores like FAO Schwarz. “But this year, I am sticking with Best Buy, Toys R Us and Target,” she said. “That’s where the deals are.”
Bill Dreher, an analyst Deutsche Bank Securities said “the economic slowdown is gravitating up the economic chain. People are cheaping out and sticking with the essentials.”
Good to know that a $250 video game console is now considered one of “the essentials.” I understand that the point of the story is to note that Christmas shopping receipts are predicted to be down this year, and that there may be some subsequent effects on the economy. But this seems to me to be evidence of the best part of the Wal-Martization of U.S. retail: downward price trends on “luxury” goods making more and more previously unattainable items available to the middle classes. There may be reason to be suspicious of Wal-Mart’s claims to save the average family $2500 a year, but we’ve certainly seen a broad leveling out of retail purchasing patterns in recent years as consumer goods that would have once been luxury items have moved to the masses with great speed.
That said, the fact that so many luxury-type items (flat panel TVs, high end video game systems, etc.) are now considered by so many to be “essential” items may be somewhat dangerous in that it probably encourages irresponsible spending.