Apologies for the long drought in posts. Life has gotten in the way of writing.

During my unintended hiatus I have been doing a great deal of very nonscientific observation of conditions in the local economy.

The stock market is great! This is something we hear shouted from the rooftops of every news outlet. Ok. Maybe it is, but how does this help the little person? What is the real “hometown” street saying?

The artist in my life has been running out of room for her creations, and a co-worker told us about Second Saturday in McKinney, Texas. Most of the small towns that are now “suburbs” of Dallas and Fort Worth have begun promoting the remnants of their old down town business districts as shopping and dining destinations.

Part of this promotion effort includes festivals of various kinds. One of the better known is Grapefest in Grapevine, Texas. Another is famous is First Monday in Canton.

We chose to spend a Saturday in McKinney because that city allows artists to set up tables and peddle their wares for free. Our table held a variety of art pieces that have done well in the On My Own Time art contest sponsored by the North Texas Business Council for the Arts and other competitions in addition to pieces in similar styles.

We did not sell a thing. In fact, none of the people that passed by the table slowed down enough to ask about the price of an item. I can completely understand that the works on offer might not have appealed to the people, but I also noticed that even with a reasonable amount of foot traffic on the square, only 10-15% of the people were carrying shopping bags. Lots of people going in and out of the shops but nobody buying. Only he restaurants seemed to be actually doing any meaningful business.

Notice that “Black Friday” has been changed to “Black Halloween” this year? The holiday shopping season continues its trend of beginning earlier and earlier each year. The media is full of multi-billion dollar predictions, but the post holiday reports are barely whispered. If things are going so great,  why are the anchor stores abandoning malls and so many big chains closing locations? Looks like people are shopping, but nobody is buying.

Are you one of the lucky people who get the “We want to buy your car!” offers in the mail? My house gets about 6 a week. Why? The hot market is used vehicles now. Especially lease returns. The quiet word in the automotive industry is a huge backlog in new vehicles. A lot of “Your job is your credit,” and “Make $400 per week, then we can put you in the car you deserve…” ads are showing up on billboards and the radio. I expect the TV promotions in December to be completely over the top because the dealers have to move inventory. The 2007 sub-prime auto loans may come roaring back.

These observations have me wondering if the US consumer’s credit is completely tapped out. I have noticed a major drop in the number of credit cards offers coming in the mail. Credit must be getting tight, or the banks are expecting a sea change and are reducing their exposure to unsecured debt.

Even the People of Walmart seem to be cutting back. The stereotype is a person with an overflowing shopping cart, but these days the carts I have seen are less than half-full.

Pay attention as you go about your wanderings. Count the number of people in the store vs. the number of people that are actually buying anything. It’s creepy.

What if Black Friday came and everybody stayed home?