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Retail sales are driven by love, not real estate

Marketplace Staff Jul 14, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Economists have been warning us for months it was coming. And it might just finally be here. The trickle down of high oil and gas prices into the rest of the economy. The Commerce Department said this morning retail sales fell a tenth of a percent last month. Consumers are feeling a bit pinched at the pump. There’s been some speculation lower sales should be expected as the hot housing market cools off. And that retailers like Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond will suffer too. Commentator and retail consultant Michael Silverstein isn’t buying it.

MICHAEL SILVERSTEIN: Retail sales are driven by one thing and one thing alone: love. Giving it; finding it; remembering it. Retail buyers are the women in our lives who care for all of us.

Today, the middle class consumer drives 70% of retail sales. And the person making the decision is the woman of the house, hands down.

That woman is educated and savvy. She’s armed with information and patience.

For her, shopping is still a primary sport. She and all the other women playing this game spend nearly $4 trillion a year.

Millions of these women live in households that make between $50,000 and $150,000 a year.

They aren’t rich, but they aren’t poor. They tell us they work hard to make ends meet.

And that’s why they don’t buy casually. They’re buying to put food on the table and to clothe their families.

They decide where to go on vacation. And three-quarters of them put money aside every month.

These women aren’t vulnerable to the economy’s ups and downs. In a recession, their unemployment rate never goes above 2 percent.

These women don’t care about the price of their homes. They’re living in them, not flipping them.

They’re building secure and loving environments by single-handedly overseeing an economic transition from disposable goods to durables.

They’re putting in a new bath or kitchen, buying a new luxury car, or installing a fancy home theatre.

Women like to buy things that last.

Women spend smartly. They have experience and insight. And they’re putting it to work.

It’s premeditated, industrial in its extraction of value. It’s why we have the richest middle class in the world.

And I hate to burst the bubble, but the sale price on their neighbor’s home has nothing to do with it.

RYSSDAL: Michael Silverstein’s latest book is called “Treasure Hunt: Inside the Mind of the New Consumer.”

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