The Schizophrenic American Consumer
I love that Bloomberg went there:
The new abnormal has given rise to a nation of schizophrenic consumers. They splurge on high-end discretionary items and cut back on brand-name toothpaste and shampoo. Companies such as Cupertino, California-based Apple, whose net income jumped 94 percent in its last quarter, and Starbucks Corp., which saw a 61 percent increase in operating income over the same time frame, are thriving.
Mercedes-Benz is having a record sales year; deliveries of new vehicles in the U.S. rose 25 percent in the first six months of 2010. Lexus and BMW were also up. Though luxury-goods manufacturers such as Hermes International SCA and Burberry Group Plc are looking primarily to Asia for growth, their recent earnings reports suggest stabilization and even modest improvement in the U.S.
By tomorrow, the consumer could easily run screaming and take what little liquidity he has left with him. The following day, he could be back at the mall jealously stroking a demo iPad. By Monday, he's at work ordering sneakers and delivery for lunch while brown bagging it mid-week after panic sets in moments after some flaccid Bernanke speech leaves him programmed to feel as though something is terribly awry. No wonder the consumer is so confused.
I don't believe America is stuffing itself with iPads, no matter what Apple tries to say to the contrary. Sure I saw two days' worth of idiots standing on Stockton St trying to get their iPhone 4s in its first two days of release but it was nothing like the first round of iPhone idiots that curled all the way up the street and back around to Union Square. And if there is a sense deep within the psyche of the American consumer that they need "more", it's only the residual phantom of Alan Greenspan, L'Oreal, Best Buy and every other evil creature that exists to convince the consumer that "you deserve it" rapping at the door. That doesn't mean we're still listening.
We KNOW better. The conflict comes from being told that the consumer must lead the way out and that things are far better than they appear everywhere we turn. An uneducated or mis-educated person might be inclined to believe the TV when it purrs everything is under control, head back to the mall now but doubt chews at the consumer heart and for the first time in possibly forever we know better.
But whatever. Let them keep saying it's the iPads.