It Is Different

by Bob Rinear, The International Forecaster:

pundits of today, are spewing the same crap they spewed in the 1999 market madness. Overvaluation didn’t matter they said because they were all going to make so much money in this “Internet thing”.

Every Monday, I reach out to my readers and ask them how their weekend was, and a little bit about what mine was like. In “general” terms, the wife and I use Sunday afternoons to take a 5 mile bike ride to the beach, pick a place to lay our towels and do some sunning and splashing in the gulf. Then we walk back to the bikes, ride back to the truck and go home. It makes for a great day of sun and fun. Well, as you’ll see below, this weekend that didn’t happen. But something else did, so let me repost that:

As always, I hope your weekend was a brilliant one for you all. Mine was interesting in a "different" way. While we usually try and ride our bikes to the beach or pick some park or what have you to walk through, I simply didn't have it in me Sunday. The weather man was predicting possibly record temps, ( and sure enough my vehicle thermometer read 101 at 2 pm) and the humidity level was hovering around 79%. I just didn't want to sweat that bad.

So, we went to the mall instead, as the wife is looking for a new outfit to take with her on her journey to NJ this week. Well, what a surprise I was in for.

The Macy's which had been a cornerstone store in this particular mall, had closed and moved to a newer mall in North Sarasota. So we entered through another corner store, SEARS. Well there were signs hanging everywhere "Everything must go, 40 - 60% Off" Yes they're closing on September 17th. But as we made our way through the mall, which until just two years ago was the biggest, oldest mall in town, all we saw was closed stores, discount stores and ....no people. Sure, in a mall with over 100 units, there were still some recognizable stores, but most were deep discount smaller companies. And don't get me wrong, this place is no dump. Until they opened the new mall at University, this was the nicest one in the county.

I was really pretty much in shock. I hadn't been in the mall in quite some time, and the change was drastic. As we wandered around, we came upon a store called 21 forever. This place was huge, full of mostly women’s clothes. Well the big sign on the door read "Everything 10 dollars and under" I shook my head in something of disbelief, because as we walked around inside the store, many of the tickets had started out at 79, or 69 or 49 dollars per item. Now everything in the store is 7.99 - 10 bucks. My guess is that they're going out.

Moving along, it just got worse and worse. One store we went in, which I'll keep nameless, had just a few lights on and NO air conditioning. The one sole woman in the place attempted to tell us it was broke, but I got the suspicion that they can't afford to run it.

I think the kicker to the trip was when I expected to find another well known store as we rounded the food court, but instead of a major well-known clothing store, there was a plastic surgery joint in its place. Yes folks you too can now get a boob job at the local mall.

With Macy's gone, Sears shutting down, at least 20+ empty storefronts, it doesn't look good for the survival of this particular mall. Yet it isn't just this mall. We're hearing reports like this from many parts of the country. Even the latest greatest mall they opened at University, has experienced a ton of turn over. Stores..."ain't makin it" as one lady told me.

Which brings up the question, is this the Amazon effect? I don't think so. Certainly, online is a part of this, but consider this...

Report: E-commerce accounted for 11.7% of total retail sales in 2016, up 15.6% over 2015. The US Department of Commerce reports total e-commerce sales in 2016 reached $394.9 billion.

Well if on-line is just 12% of retail sales...what's up with the mall? I think that what's up is that more and more people have less and less money. I think the only things that can survive are deep discount stores. Long gone are the days where people walk in and buy up an 89 dollar blouse. Now they want it for 15. Oh sure, the well-off still shop their higher end favorites. But the only stores that I saw any people in were selling jeans for 12.99.

Just a sign of the times I guess.

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