Sunday Drive-by Grassroots Economics

Lynne Kiesling

Idea courtesy of Paul Kedrosky, who posted a list of on-the-ground observations of economic activity. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours browsing and running some errands at my nearby suburban mall, and both the vehicle traffic there and back and the foot trafffic while there seemed light. But by the time I left at 1:00 my level of the parking deck was full.

The shops seemed pretty busy, especially Nordstrom, and there are some early spring deals out there (I got a super-cute top at Martin & Osa at a very good price!). But what was most striking was how crowded Forever 21 was! The line for the fitting rooms was about 25 people when I was there, and everyone’s arms were laden. Then they only had three people working the checkout, and there were about a dozen people waiting to check out, most of whom were buying multiple items.

I have three hypotheses for why Forever 21 was so busy:

  1. It’s inexpensive “disposable fashion”, so when people trade down from other, more pricey shops, they shop at Forever 21 (same argument for H&M)
  2. Its target market is adolescent and young adult women, whose discretionary spending may be less sensitive to recession than other spending
  3. It’s Easter/Passover weekend, and I overheard several conversations between moms and their daughters who were home from university for the weekend