By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index
If you feel the need to curb your appetite or have been looking for an excuse to stare at the ceiling all night, I have the perfect recommendation for you; read as many articles and websites on the economy as you can find.
If you thought crime was bad, political polarity was killing us or even that conspiracy theories of “elites” or aliens controlling our weather, DNA, global economy or lethal viruses was frightening, try looking at recent business or economic forecasts.
We once had stable industries. And interest rates. And career tracks.
We once knew, or thought we knew, the basics of a solid career; a solid education from a well-known and recognized university and, along side, or (sometimes) eve better, the long-time guarantee of a promising career trajectory based on a simple, unyielding principle; it’s all in who you know.
COVID (and our reactions to it) inverted many long time, honored assumptions and market forces that most of us had presumed were (something like) natural if not eternal.
Price increases (or, according to some, outright gouging) are ahead of us. Sometimes. On some items.
Unless it isn’t. Sometimes. On some items.
In 2020 and 2021, many of us, working from home or remotely, loaded up on lap tops and other work-related office equipment and turned Zoom into a near universal digital conference room – and household word.
And then, in 2022, decades-high inflation, and a return to pre-pandemic spending on travel and hanging out in person, have forced retailers and electronics makers to adjust to a world where more people are spending on essentials – like gas and food.
And big box stores, like Target and Walmart, reported incomes record sales – and drops.
Computers have dropped in price by as much as 10%. TVs, even big ones, are also being sold for less.
Many holiday-season forecasts have called for sales increases – largely helped by price increases and enduring demand despite those price increases.
But not for everyone – Target missed big on 2022 third-quarter earnings, and said it was bracing for a possible decline in fourth-quarter same-store sales, citing “softening sales and profit trends that emerged late in the third quarter and persisted into November.”
But not Walmart; results from Walmart were almost the exact opposite, detailing earnings that beat by a wide margin and a raised full-year outlook.
Upscale Williams-Sonoma projected “macro uncertainty” and “increasingly inconsistent” demand.
The economy of 2022 could be summarized as an experiment in the physics of economics; every force perpetuates itself and accumulates its own momentum and peaks, then, once hitting a tipping point, dissipates its energy to make room for the next force.
In late 2022, preoccupations with a downturn seem to be easing, after the economy grew during the third quarter and reversed direction after two consecutive quarters of declines.
Retailers as diverse as Dollar Tree and Nordstrom are expecting (or already experiencing) a resurgence in sales.
Give me those bare necessities
With prices going up, down and all around, consumers are focussing on the basics – which means even groceries are on center stage when it comes to price volatility.
Among other things, we are seeing a discounting wave across clothing retailers in an effort to clear inventories in an effort to attract (or at least not permanently alienate) more consumers. Burlington, among other discounters which buy up goods that other retailers don’t want, stands to benefit from the inventory purge.