Fashion and 'Sin Sectors' Flourish Despite Economic Downturn

May 05, 2008 12:20 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Despite rising unemployment, financial industry woes and falling real estate prices, consumers are finding solace in two age-old pastimes: shopping and entertainment.

30-Second Summary

Despite the mortgage and banking crisis and a recent drop in overall consumer spending, millions of consumers are finding retail therapy in cheap clothes, drink and entertainment.

The Department of Commerce released data on April 30 showing the weakest growth in overall consumer spending since 2001. The New York Times called the data evidence of “a growing inclination toward thrift.”

But checkout lines were jammed at New York’s bargain fashion outlets, and “sin sector” spending for alcohol and entertainment showed strong growth during the same quarter.

The 246 branches of affordable fashion chain Steve and Barry’s have shown strong retail profit numbers, and checkout lines at the store’s midtown Manhattan branch are often 20-people long. Said actress Sarah Jessica Parker, the designer of Steve and Barry’s Bitten line, “For a lot of people … there is this idea about wanting fashion in an affordable way. They are living in a less rarefied world.”

The movie industry, long a panacea for economic pain, is also flourishing. “Attendance actually increased during three of the last four recessions,” writes the Los Angeles Times. During the Great Depression, 60 million to 80 million Americans regularly turned to the cinema for escape.

Many Americans may also find comfort in drink and cigarettes; if trends seen during the slump earlier this decade were any indication, so-called “sin stocks” will stay strong as well.

Headline Links: ‘Is This the World’s Cheapest Dress?’

Background: Overall consumer spending down

Historical Context: Film attendance during the Great Depression

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Everyone’s a Fashion Critic,’ cheap clothing and fair trade

Reference: FindingDulcinea’s Web Guide to Bargain Hunting


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