As many of you know, I have a small side business selling goodies on Ebay. When I'm not dealing with known wholesalers, I go on regular shopping trips, rushing through myriad malls and flea markets in myriad towns, in search of bargains that I can sell at a higher price on Ebay. These are, hopefully, bargains that not just anyone can find.
These pell-mell shopping trips have me walking through level-after-level of mall-after-mall and give me the same amount of exercise as a triathalon.
So this last weekend, I went on a long excursion which involved driving from the Tampa Bay Area to Gainesville, Florida (2 1/2 hours) to Atlanta, Georgia (5 1/2 hours) to Jacksonville, Florida (5 1/2 hours) back to the Tampa Bay Area (3 1/2 hours). May I add that it was literally freezing in Atlanta, which is something we Floridians aren't accustomed to. Bleah.
While in Atlanta, I went to the safe areas (there are certain areas in Atlanta, just as in Miami, where a white person should not set foot if they want to remain unmutilated). These are the nicer areas, where there are bound to be international travelers, locals, and wealthy business people.
Many malls were dead. The ones that weren't dead had people milling about but not buying much. Every store boasted a sale, and some stores had all their merchandise marked at half-off.
In one 'busy' mall, an anxious salesperson in a high-end shop begged me for news elsewhere. "Is it like this everywhere you've been?" she asked, when she learned I was from Florida. I said it was. "I think it's going to get even worse," she said in a strained voice. "If it's this bad now, I am frightened to see what it's like in January."
I did see more activity in the outlet malls. I went into a booming cookware store, where the three sales clerks were rushing about haphazardly, trying to ring and service all the customers who were packed into the store.
"Wow, you are busy," I said in surprise.
"Yes," one girl answered breathlessly. "We never expected this to happen - it's not like this anywhere else!"
My bet is that during a poor economy, people cook at home more, so the money that might have been spent on luxury items is being spent on blenders, mixers, and bread machines.
The luxury stores are hurting. I saw almost no one in any of the sunglass and jewelry stores except for Whitehall (a.k.a. Lundstrom) Jewelers, which is going out of business and has some amazing markdowns. Even then, the markdowns weren't amazing enough: People were milling about, looking, but not buying.
It's bad. We'll only know just how bad it is when we see the Black Friday sales figures.