What are you stockpiling all that sh*t for anyway?
You would think that history did not exhibit trends with similar strangeness, but you would be wrong. People’s “necessity goods” before the Great Recession included television sets. But when it hit, the flat screens took over.
The flats were in, and the TV sets were out, as we lost our houses in America and many other places.
Which brings me to my question: Are “necessity goods” today the same as they were a little over ten years ago?
Well, let me counteract with another question: Were we trading houses when we had yet to be comfortable trading handshakes a few months back? (Covid-19 housing boom reference.)
Let that sink in for a moment!
The Day the World Stops Shopping author recalls that a sales drop in mobile homes had occurred in the US capital of motorhomes a year before the 2008–09 recession. Execs reported camper, caravan, mobile home, RV, and trailer sales fell by 80-percent (MacKinnon 21).
Next followed all-terrain vehicles, pickup trucks, and sports cars dropping by 30-percent. Then, private planes, motorcycles, and “pleasure craft” met the same fate. Then it was car sales decreasing 25-percent.
It was a time when Americans were dialing down on common items like jewelry, flora, musical appliances, and home furniture (15–20 percent). Books fell 10–15 percent. Essential home appliances, carriers, domestic and international flights; housewares and workbenches; wristwatches, sports gear, cookware; glassware and utensils fell too.
Certain items felt less essential, while others introduced newly to the market became necessity goods. At the height of the recession and throughout the globe, sales for flat-screen TVs spiked as we upgraded our television sets (Nuttall).
Even ten years after they had ended, the effects of the recession still loomed. Like blemishes on an otherwise busy market roadmap spotting major cities, abandoned buildings where Linens ‘n Things, KB Toys, and Kmart once operated today permeate the landscape empty. Multinational and parent company to Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery, alone closed all 4,700 stores in the US and Canada.
I collect DVDs and Blurays — copies of The Godfather strewed about — but now, browsing a store is out of the question. Yep, the Great Recession had its version of lockdowns. But little did we know that it had a prophetic message casting over the later decades.
The experiences of obtaining all the items I’ve just mentioned were either transformed or omitted. It represented how people redefined necessity goods and their way of life from an economic slump.
People bought the same amount of stuff, only for cheaper; the wealthy lavished like there was no recession, and the poverty-stricken pruned for food, shelter, and clothing. Concurrent was spending per American household dropping a mere 3.5-percent. Nothing for us to declare the end of consumerism.
Fast-forward to the coronavirus pandemic, and we see the same trend repeating itself, but with graver implications. A halt in worldwide shopping would resemble the COVID-19 shutdown than the Great Recession (MacKinnon 14). Even so, the pandemic brought its ensemble of necessity goods, such as bread-cutting lames, vitamins and supplements, household cleaners and soaps, gardening tools, and cargo bikes.
Make no mistake about it: a drop in global consumption means that people everywhere will feel its effects, only with lesser purchasing power as they prioritize their necessities.
- MacKinnon, J. B. The Day the World Stops Shopping. Random House Canada, 2021.
- Nuttall, Chris. “Why the Recession Did Not Show on TVs.” Financial Times, 23 Feb. 2010, www.ft.com/content/5989884c-bccd-37e8-9b4f-42c2b83381dc.