Americans are becoming more discerning consumers. According to a poll from Gallup released this morning a majority of us are switching to generics, using coupons and comparison shopping on and off-line to find the best values. The question is whether this is a reflection of tight economic times or simply a function of 2014 being a particularly uninspiring year when it comes to the arts and products available for purchase.
The economic arguments are well known. Wages are stagnant and more than 1/3 of the potential workforce is simply choosing not to participate in the labor market. But there's something more at play here. We're losing interest in our old amusements.
Yesterday Dicks Sporting Goods (DKS) announced it would be cutting more than 400 PGA professionals in its stores. Dicks has been candid about the downturn in its golf business before, in its last conference call CEO Ed Stack said the downturn in golf was responsible for the vast majority of the company's earnings shortfall and added that he saw no bottom in sight for the business. Still it's a significant concession to fire these pros. After all, Dicks first expanded heavily into golf in 2007. Golf survived the Great Recession but can't hack the sense of ennui of 2014.
Related: Can golf win me back?
It's not just weather-related things like golf. Americans aren't even going to the movies anymore either. July box office is off 30% compared to last year. It's the worst year for American cinema since 2011. Hell, it's almost August and we don't even have a song of the summer yet.
There's still plenty of evidence that Americans will splurge when there's something exciting but we're making merchants work for it. That's a good thing for our personal balance sheets but a sea change in behavior. We're willing to hold out for better prices and more exciting products. What once was called "Showrooming" is now just shopping. We're wised up, jaded and generally unsatisfied. 70% of GDP is based on consumer spending and there is no economic "rising tide", just a river of discontent. If you need a Wall of Worry for investors to climb growing discretion with our spending is as good as any.