The smell of retail fear?
No signs of that in my local grocery store today.
Instead, a poster announcing 20 to 30 percent off Christmas greeted me at the door.
Ramming Christmas down consumer's throats before the first frost is on the pumpkin is nothing new. Even this year, the grocery store was a bit behind the times. Target started smooshing Halloween merchandise to make way for Christmas a while back. The local store has been out of candy corn for three weeks -- a travesty I complained about bitterly.
And the Halloween clearance section was sparse at the grocery store -- four carts of merchandise, mostly mini Tootsie Pops and deli cookies. At 99 cents the cookies tempted me, until I saw egg listed on the label. It made me wonder where everything went over night, because Halloween napkins and dishes were plentiful when I was in the store Wednesday. They didn't have candy corn, though. Is this shortage related to ethanol, too?
If I wanted candy canes or chocolate bells, I could have stocked up at 20 percent off. I didn't see anyone buying, though plenty of parents were battling the kid attractor factor. "Oh, look! Santa Claus! Can we have it." I chuckled to myself at the beleaguered dad and was happy the guys were home.
To discount Christmas this deeply from the get-go struck me as strange. And a bit desperate.
Maybe corporate honchos read Friday's news reports and freaked out: American consumers bought 0.3 percent less last month, the biggest drop in four years.
And, although final numbers aren't in, the U.S. Commerce Department thinks spending might have dropped 2.5 percent in the third quarter. That would be the largest dip since 1990, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
So what's that mean for you and me?
Possibly bargains for those who can afford them. At least, on things we don't really need. On things we do need -- toothpaste, laundry detergent -- companies still are showing growing profits and trying to figure out how much much of a price increase we'll take before we start brushing with baking soda and beating our clothes on rocks along the creek bank.
Or maybe it means they've artificially set prices higher from the start so they can offer deeper discounts more often in an attempt to appeal to frugal consumers.
I'm not buying. At least not candy canes on Nov. 1.
Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.