Consumers' Last Hurrah

Posted: Sep 26, 2012 12:01 AM

Are consumers really more confident or have they just thrown in the towel for one last hurrah?  Here’s what I mean. 

For several years, I was a member of the Rochester, New York Fencing Club and competed in epee in the senior division. 

Before you think it was just a group of old guys with walkers and wheelchairs trying to stab each other, keep in mind that many of the competitors were ex-Olympians, many had international credentials, a large number competed at the collegiate level, and everyone took their sport very seriously. 

Before I retired from the sport, I had achieved a top-ten national ranking, a great tribute to what good coaching could accomplish with raw clay. 

The training was very intense; perhaps the most significant was achieving an understanding of what the sport was all about. 

I learned that most actions achieved reactions.  I trained on responding to the movements, the ebb and flow of my opponent. 

I also knew that he or she, when trained properly, was always looking for the opening, just like me.  It wasn’t difficult to understand that certain competitors responded differently to different movements. 

Yet, the most difficult person to face was the novice, the guy who had absolutely no clue what he was doing.  He didn’t understand that if you moved one way, his response was predictable or should be predictable, and he should move the other way. 

The novice usually just threw caution to the wind and said “what the heck, let ‘er rip.” 

Much like it is today with most consumers. 

With real unemployment accelerating, foreclosures starting to increase, embassies under attack, and the world on the verge of implosion, most people would take a pause and say it’s time to retrench, it’s time to protect, and it’s time to preserve. 

But those recently surveyed for the September consumer confidence report totally disregarded the realities of the moment and responded not so much to the “now,” but on what is hoped for in the future. 

Having been beaten down, of course, (except the stock market) for so long it is only natural to finally throw caution to the wind and say “let ‘er rip.” 

Spend more at the mall, go out to dinner more often, utilize that last bit of room on the credit card, and whatever happens, happens…job or no job. 

Just like the novice fencer, the consumer’s first burst of confidence catches everyone by surprise but when reality finally sets in, that which was hoped for becomes just a last hurrah.