Posts Tagged ‘shopping’


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mike3jan karikatur für tribüne- belebensversuch


Black Friday has apparently become a spectator sport for the leisure class, who look forward to watching videos of shoppers brawling for discounted items from the safety of their own homes. A reality-show Hunger Games, if you will.

But this year Black Friday, like Mockingjay Part 1, was a disappointment, as sales were apparently way down.

That’s no surprise. As you can see above, real median household income, which reached a recent peak of $56,436 in 2007 (which was below the overall peak of $56,895 in 1999), has fallen to $51,939 (in 2013 dollars).


Or, looked at differently (in terms of the average real income of the bottom 90 percent), incomes have fallen from $34,815.58 in 2007 to $30,438.59 in 2012.

The real madness was to presume that either the third installment of the Hunger Games (which was nothing more than a placeholder until the real finale is released) or Black Friday (in the midst of an economy that generates depressed incomes for all but a tiny minority at the top) would be a success.


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Andreas Gursky, "99 Cent" (1999)

I’m a regular customer at dollar stores and other parts of the “basement of American capitalism.” So, how do they work?

The New York Times Magazine has a good article on the economics of dollar stores—the new customer base (primarily low-income households but more and more affluent customers), how they’re designed (packed with merchandise), how they survive on low profit margins (they’re located in the low-rent district of malls), and where they’re located in the commodity chain:

In the basement of American capitalism, you can see the invisible hand at work, except it’s not invisible. It’s actually your hand.

The streamlining of the big dollar stores opens up, for other outlets, their original source of cheap merchandise: distressed goods, closeouts, overstock, salvage merchandize, department-store returns, liquidated goods, discontinued lines, clearance items, ex-catalog stock, freight-damaged goods, irregulars, salvage cosmetics, test-market items and bankruptcy inventories.

This secondary market supplies another stratum of retail chains below the dollar-store channel, one of the best known being Big Lots. Hamilton explained that if these guys don’t sell the merchandise, it bumps on down the line to another level known as liquidators.

The one item missing from the story is the production of the items that appear in dollar stores. As regular customers know, it’s all made in China—by workers who probably don’t earn enough to shop at dollar stores.