Forecast: Not So Cheery

Back in June, when I last wrote about consumer confidence levels, I said I was starting to feel a positive retail shift. Yeah, this is probably why it
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Back in June, when I last wrote about consumer confidence levels, I said I was starting to feel a positive retail shift. Yeah, this is probably why it

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Back in June, when I last wrote about consumer confidence levels, I said I was starting to feel a positive retail shift. Yeah, this is probably why it's a good thing that I don't do economic forecasting for a living. My hunches are about as reliable as my sense of direction. And in this case, that's a real bummer. While Fashion's Night Out was clearly a success in boosting morale, and in many cases sales for the night, the reality of fashion's retail situation is still murky at best. The newest numbers released about how consumers are feeling are not so positive, and the people that are paid to analyze such things don't think there will be much of a significant upswing anytime soon, regardless of the fact that most economists are claiming the recession generally over. A senior credit officer tells WWD, “There’s been this fundamental shift of people going back to saving and repaying debt. Some of what drove retail growth four or five years ago was really just a bubble of readily available consumer credit.” And that makes a whole lot of sense to me. And while not helpful to struggling fashion businesses, probably a better way to live and not slide back into even worse debt.

And the job market certainly isn't helping to stabilize or grow spending. What I didn't realize until reading this article is that 2/3 of the economy relies on that consumer spending. Wow that's much bigger than I ever imagined. Hence the "negative" shopping forecast being handed out, in spite of some moves in a more positive direction. Retailers are obviously worried about the upcoming holiday season and trying to figure out how to lessen inventory without boring the customers they do have coming in. And I wonder how spring buying will be affected? It definitely seemed, in New York least, that designers were aiming for the wearable and the buy-able. But will their efforts pay off in the end? Looks like we'll be waiting until the second quarter of 2010 to really find out. Here's hoping we don't lose any more brands and stores we love in the meantime.