Friday, January 13, 2012

Arm aber Hässlich

63% of working Spanish households are now living off of €1000 per month.
To get to the end of the month on this kind of money in your pocket is a Herculean task. Many families are counting the cents closely before they head out to shop. For thousands of Spaniards today, buying something has become an act of renunciation.
That’s a hard fact, one which I wish on no one, but a hard fact that makes this argument about non-rising lower-tier America look especially foolish. It also takes the mickey out of the endless grinding griping about the WalMart-ization of America, and the Americanization of Europe since 63% of Spaniards now appear to be needing their sources of WalMart-ization and hideous Americanization to subsist with any dignity:
Against this harsh backdrop, the low-cost shopping phenomenon is flourishing, and it does not look set to die out any time soon. Quite to the contrary, it's becoming a more and more prominent feature of society and its economy. Restaurants, travel, cars, insurance, electronics, real estate, leisure, clothing, food: nothing seems to escape the pull of low-cost shopping.

The question, though, is whether low-cost shopping will still be around once the crisis has passed. Is it a structural or temporary strategy? How will the consumer have changed by then? Will he or she be more rational, less impulsive? Dare we assume that the search for the lowest price has become a new way of life?
Dare we not ask pointless questions about the survival skills of people and second guess individuals? Sit on your extra-special world-beating super-duper everything and spin – Spaniards are getting by without the luxury-aspirant subtext of the new Europe.
In the meantime, the low-cost concept is spreading fast and wide. “The consumer has gone from looking for what I call a 'superior functionality' to looking for the 'good enough functionality', which is cheaper. In other words, why should I buy a car with all the extras if I don't really need them?”
As with everything, unless it’s Europeans talking about Europeans, all European discussion of the state of the economy takes the form of either economically illiterate and emotionalized fits of kicking the victim, or using the usual straw men as a point of reference. That much-lauded compassion comes last.

But I digress. Let’s go back to those folks that should be thanking Sam Walton:
In any case, at bottom this phenomenon conveys a sense of urgency and need. As paradoxical as it sounds, it also conveys a desire to keep up one's standard of living and to go on enjoying a product or a simple luxury.