People Don't Have Any Money

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 10:58 AM EDT

Consumer spending continues to suck:

Most stores reported significant declines — with the worst coming from chains that specialize in teenage clothing and gear.

Over all, the industry posted a 2.9 percent sales decline compared with a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters, making August the 12th consecutive month of negative growth. The August decline comes on top of a 5 percent drop in July.

Despite signs that the economy is stabilizing, consumers remain reluctant to spend. That does not augur for a good holiday shopping season, a crucial time for retailers. As analysts at AT Kearney noted in a recent back-to-school report: “thrift is settling in as a habit for consumers across the board.”

Look: thrift is not "settling in as a habit."  People are spending less because they don't have any money.  Some are unemployed.  Some have had their hours cut.  Some are paying down credit card balances.  Some are desperately trying to make ends meet after their ARMs reset.  Some are paying off home equity loans they thought they'd be able to refinance forever.  Habit has nothing to do with it.

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