Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Perfect Store(m)

The following chart shows inflation adjusted department store sales per capita.

Click to enlarge.

I've added a few ugly polynomial trend lines for your consideration. For a variety of reasons, here we go again.

Since the data was so ugly, I chose not to wait for March's official CPI but instead used's estimate of -0.1% found here. Close enough for government work!

This one's going to need a sound effect. Normally I'd jump at the opportunity to reuse a clown horn. MaxedOutMama once suggested a foghorn (see comments). I just don't think either of them will do the chart justice this time. It needs something that conveys even less prosperity and even more despair.

April 13, 2013
In the end, J.C. Penney’s board moved quickly with CEO move

A strong believer in Johnson’s vision, retail analyst Robin Lewis, said Thursday that his 17-month reign was “the most colossal, dramatic, tragic, transparent, rapid and microscopically tracked meltdown in the history of retailing.”

That about sums up Penney’s 111th year in business.

Here comes some bonus sarcasm. Brace for it.

The new CEO will no doubt do much better. All he has to do is navigate the near depression level economy while simultaneously fending off the rise of, Costco, and Sam's Club. How hard can that be?

Source Data:
U.S. Census: Retail Trade
St. Louis Fed: CPI
St. Louis Fed: Population


Stagflationary Mark said...

When inflation adjusted department store sales per capita are down roughly 10% year over year, the odds of March's CPI reading materially affecting the chart's shape are mind-bogglingly small.

TJandTheBear said...

Great chart. The QE bounce may have run it's course.
Meanwhile, I've apparently failed to properly communicate the true nature of PMs to you. "The Matrix" is the world of fiat, and your frame of mind is still firmly ensconced within it.

Stagflationary Mark said...


I understood your reference. I just don't happen to believe that gold is a good value at any price. I felt the same way about housing.

There is one difference though. At least homeowners can find value in using their homes. When I owned gold, it just sat there. It only had value to me because I thought I would find someone else willing to pay me well for it. That's got greater fool written all over it. It worked great. It won't work well for everyone. At some point, maybe even in 2011, someone will have overpaid (just like they did in the early 80s).

If I was the last man on earth and therefore had proof there were no greater fools, then I would find no personal value in gold. I don't enjoy wearing jewelry.

I would find value in aluminum though. I lined a cooking sheet with it today. I drank a can of soda. Aluminum is an amazing modern metal and one most seem to take for granted. It doesn't have 5000 years of history but only because it wasn't even discovered until fairly recently.

It would be interesting to go back a few thousand years with aluminum and see how much gold you'd get for it, epecially if it was in the shape of a functional modern aluminum airplane. Gold bugs don't generally want to talk about that though.

Just opinions!

Mr Slippery said...

The tripod sound is one of the scariest sounds ever in a movie.

I am not sure why you aren't taking the happier view on retail sales (not just department store) as seen in this chart.

The decline in department stores is being taken up in some part by an increase in Amazon and Internet sales. Wouldn't it be better to look at total all retail sales or are Internet sales like Amazon included in your chart?

TJ, I sold about half my gold on Friday once my statistical model broke. My theory on central bank price support did not pan out. I don't think I went "Gordon Brown" because I didn't sell at a decade low.

Stagflationary Mark said...

Mr Slippery,

1. That happier view sure doesn't concern itself with how much of that growth is just inflation. Just think how happy it would look if we really did hyperinflate, lol. ;)

2. Amazon is not included in the chart. Amazon mostly hires salescomputers. Department stores mostly hire salespersons. And one wonders why I often dwell on the awful employment reports. Sigh.

3. If people are shopping on Amazon instead of department stores then they might eat at all those restaurants around department stores less. And one wonders why I think this country has too many restaurants. Sigh.

4. I definitely don't think you went "Gordon Brown". Even I managed to sell gold for well more than double what he did (for a 50% profit in less than 2 years in 2006). You sold for more than twice what I did. Congrats! Those who bought near the recent peak in 2011 went "Gordon Brown" though, if it means to buy *or* sell gold at exactly the wrong time.

Troy said...

The Do-Nothing Congress still has another two year grip on policy locked in, too.

I honesty think the House majority is perfectly happy slowly throttling (in the ligature sense) the economy through 2016 to set them up to take over again.

This is a very cheese-dependent economy of course.

is real per-worker gov't spending

The austerity of the late 1970s has returned with a vengeance! Who knew??

How the heck our government (at all levels) is spending over $40,000 per working-type person is another question.

This is Denmark-scale socialism without Denmark-scale taxation!

Clearly, we need to cut $16,000 off that chart, but the pain that would cause is simply unimaginable.

So much pain that not even a Bellingham doomstead would be isolated enough I fear (if it is even now).

I should just move to Sverige and be done with it all.

I have no great expectations that Abenomics is going to put Japan on a better long-term path, either.

America is fixable, but we need to raise our collective IQ about 50 points first.

It takes an effective IQ of around 120 to just be able to see the problems, let alone work toward solutions.

Stagflationary Mark said...


We just need more TV! ;)

Fixable, america is, but to raise our collective iq about 50 points first we need. - Yoda Translation

dearieme said...

This is Denmark-scale socialism without Denmark-scale taxation!

I suspect that Denmark is more skilled at it too.

Stagflationary Mark said...

dearieme & Troy,

And we've got Japan-scale ZIRP without Japan-scale deflation.

Two wrongs make a right, lol. Sigh.