Saturday, October 25, 2008

Economic Impressions

Before I left to go to Texas, Steve Cotton commented on my blog that he would like to hear my impressions of the economic situation while I was back in Texas. Surprisingly, I didn't 'see' strong evidence of an economic downturn in Houston or Austin.

While in Austin I went to Precision Camera. Local camera stores have been closing for the last eight or so years due to internet marketing and of course, the digital revolution. Precision has hung in there and they are a large store in a prime location. They were having an event with some camera reps demonstrating new equipment. I was surprised at how many people were in the store and apparently buying because a couple of things I wanted to see were sold out.

At the huge Galleria Mall in Houston the parking lots and stores seemed as full as they were when I was there in September of last year. Which doesn't mean that they were jammed with shoppers but there were not fewer than a year ago. What surprised me in the stores was that there were not more sale racks than there were. Most merchandise was fresh...Fall clothing, Thanksgiving and Christmas items. The stores looked great with Christmas decorations going up. It looked like business as usual. Of course, it is predicted that this holiday season is not going to be a profitable one for the stores, so as we move toward the end of the year, the merchandising strategy could change quickly.

Most of the restaurants I went to were more mid-level restaurants. Again, I didn't see any slow down in patrons. I did go to an expensive steak house one night and while it was busy I didn't think it was quite as busy as when I was there another time mid-year.

I can't comment on the housing market but in general Houston and Austin have not been affected by the downturn in the housing market like some other parts of the country. But when I drove through neighborhoods, I did not see an unusual number of For Sale signs or any foreclosure signs.

Now, where I did get the feeling for the economy was in talking to friends. The talk always went to retirement savings, the stock market, and what they were doing to cut back on spending and "hunker down" until this recession was over. All my friends seemed to feel that it is going to get worse before it gets better.


YayaOrchid said...

I think for the most part everyone is being cautious in their spending.

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks for the observations, Billie. I drove up to Portland today for a graduation ceremony. We had dinner at a rather expensive restaurant next door to a live theater. The theater was sold out and there was not an empty chair in the restaurant. The streets were filled with people. The Saturday Market was teeming. And people were carrying lots of packages. Everyone I talked with was filled with an amazing sense of optimism. Some of us are at retirement age, but no one seemed to mind that their investments were down. They all expected a recovery within at least 5 years. Maybe we are getting mature enough to know that possessions do not own our lives.