I worked for a haberdasher as a kid.
Bonus points if you know what that is without looking it up.
It was the only real job I ever had. I folded and straightened clothes, swept the floors, and occasionally helped a customer or two. They were mostly rich people – nobody else in my blue-collar town was buying custom-made suits, save for the occasional wedding or funeral.
The worst was cleaning the tailoring shop in the basement, where this old Italian guy, Tony, altered everything by hand. It was filthy. He chain-smoked cigarettes, spit on the floor, and hid old Playboys under his chair. I had nightmares about that basement.
My dad worked in the same store, doing the same job, 30 years before I did. They had a tradition of hiring a local high school kid for a two-year tour of duty. Before you graduated, you recruited and trained your replacement, and so on.
The store just turned 100 a couple of years ago. It was started by a guy named Tobias. That’s how old it is. Four generations later, it remains in the same family. Tony is long gone and the tailor shop is modern and spotless.
Every nice piece of clothing I own came from that store. Same was true for my dad.
The current owner – the great-great-grandson – is one of my best friends. I only see him about once a year – on the same day. We share the same birthday. Coincidentally, the guy who preceded me also had the same birthday.
That’s Monday. We’re meeting for lunch, per tradition. We’ll talk entrepreneurship, life, probably a smattering of politics.
But I’m nervous.
I haven’t talked to him since COVID. And it’s impossible to imagine business has been good.
Apparel retail has been crushed by quarantine. Apparel retail with no e-commerce channel – like my friend’s store – has been obliterated. Apparel retail, with no e-commerce channel, selling suits and other professional attire? I don’t even want to think about it.
No matter how bad it is, I know he’ll be positive. One hundred years covers a depression, several wars, and more fashion trends than you can count. He’ll persevere.
But we have to help.
With the holiday shopping season here, please support small, family-owned businesses. No offense to our big-box retail and e-commerce clients. I love you too.
But our local retailers are struggling.
And you will need suits again someday.
Here’s what we’re seeing:
Consumer confidence is like that tailoring shop I had to clean – nasty. After things started looking up, just slightly, before what was expected to be a clear victory for Joe Biden and a quick path to a new stimulus bill, it all went sideways. A clear victory is not translating into a smooth transition. COVID cases and deaths are climbing at a scary pace. Jobs fears mount, with no immediate relief on the way. And all of that led to the worst drop we’ve seen in our Economic Sentiment Index since early July. We need clarity – and stimulus – soon.
One thing that was irrefutable about the election – and our data – is that people love weed. Five new states legalized recreational or medical marijuana last week, bringing the total to 36 nationwide. Forget red or blue. The map is green. And indeed, our data shows a remarkable continued rise in public support for legal herb. Sixty-nine percent of U.S. adults support the legalization of marijuana in their state, up from 56% just three years ago. Surprisingly, Gen Z is the least likely age group to be supportive. Kids these days…
Wine sales, on the other hand, could see a significant decline this holiday season. You don’t need to be a data genius to figure this one out. People won’t be hosting parties. People won’t be bringing (or regifting) bottles of wines to parties. Family gatherings will be small or at least they should be. Personally, I drank enough wine during the election to last me until January. Just kidding. I’ll do my part for the wine industry. Count on it.
People will still spend plenty of money on Black Friday and they already have. At some point, Black Friday went from being one crazy day to an entire, timeless concept. For example, 8% of Americans say they have already taken advantage of a “Black Friday deal” and we’re still two weeks from Thanksgiving. To prep for the coming barrage of holiday retail, we did three studies on the subject you might find valuable:
- We looked at the biggest expected gift categories for the coming season and thanks to the pandemic, “experiences” have fallen dramatically in the rankings;
- With COVID putting added strain on e-commerce, people are worried about shipping problems over the holidays;
- Staying safe and healthy has eclipsed traditions, gifts, and even family as the priority this season and it shows up in lots of ways – though it varies by political cohort.
I signed up for Parler and it’s…um…something. More and more of my right-leaning friends have been migrating to the fairly new social media platform, purportedly in protest to what they see as a liberal bias on Facebook and Twitter. And, indeed, our data show remarkable user numbers in a very short amount of time. Not surprisingly, self-identified conservatives outnumber non-conservatives by nearly 5 to 1. To call that an echo chamber would be pejorative. But I don’t know what else to call it.
Finally, with so many other crises to worry about, you’d think everyone may have forgotten about the environment. But they haven’t. Climate change concern reached the highest level we’ve seen, climbing a full 5 percentage points since the beginning of the pandemic. Evident in this analysis, however, is the fact that people still aren’t personally making big changes to solve the problem. I feel like I’ve been kind of preachy already in this email. So, I’ll leave it there.
We published a few lighter studies you might enjoy:
- The Ulta + Target partnership should be a winner for both – and a loser for Sephora;
- Americans expect their Thanksgiving gatherings to be much smaller this year, which could be inspiring more people to order in;
- Starbucks still has the most popular holiday drinks, especially among Panera lovers.
And now, our most popular questions of the week:
- Does your family have a favorite board game that everyone always plays at family gatherings / holiday celebrations?
- In general, how do you feel about leftovers?
- How many rings do you wear on your fingers on a typical day?
- Which of these major types of Asian cuisine is your favorite, broadly speaking?
- When visiting a museum for the first time, are you a ‘guided tour’ kind of person?
Answer Key: Apples to Apples; Love ‘em; Only one; All of it; No but I always regret it.
Hoping you’re well.