Monday, April 28, 2008

The Price of Nuts Is Nuts I Tell Ya!

There are interesting developments economically. Two of the largest owners of America's Main Street (i.e. shopping malls) are going to report quarterly results this week. That should be worthy of some attention and analysis.
Faced with soaring gasoline and food prices, and concerns about losing their homes or their jobs, the U.S. consumer may be in no hurry for trips to the mall.

U.S. consumer confidence fell for a third straight month in April to its weakest in 26 years, according to a Reuters/University of Michigan survey released on Friday.

I can assure you I'm in no hurry for a trip to the mall. Aside from my new glasses, I haven't bought anything at a mall in months that I can recall. I rarely go to the mall even when gainfully employed.

Simon Property Group Inc , the largest U.S. owner of malls and shopping centers, and second-ranked General Growth Properties Inc , are set to report first-quarter results on Tuesday.

Simon Proper Group and General Growth are the two mall operators set to report this this.
Simon Property Group Inc , the largest U.S. owner of malls and shopping centers, and second-ranked General Growth Properties Inc , are set to report first-quarter results on Tuesday.

Simon owns, has an interest, or manages 380 malls, outlet centers, and shopping centers totaling 258 million square feet of property in North American, Europe and Asia.

Chicago-based General Growth owns, has an interest or manages more than 200 malls in 45 U.S. states, as well as shopping centers in Brazil and Turkey. The company's portfolio includes more than 24,000 retail stores.

Yesterday the New York Times ran an interesting article about the creative ways Americans are tightening their belts.
Spending data and interviews around the country show that middle- and working-class consumers are starting to switch from name brands to cheaper alternatives, to eat in instead of dining out and to fly at unusual hours to shave dollars off airfares.


Burt Flickinger, a longtime retail consultant, said the last time he saw such significant changes in consumer buying patterns was the late 1970s, when runaway inflation prompted Americans to “switch from red meat to pork to poultry to pasta — then to peanut butter and jelly.”

“It hasn’t gotten to human food mixed with pet food yet,” he said, “but it is certainly headed in that direction.”


Wal-Mart Stores reports stronger-than-usual sales of peanut butter and spaghetti, while restaurants like Domino’s Pizza and Ruby Tuesday have suffered a falloff in orders, suggesting that many Americans are sticking to low-cost home-cooked meals.

Hey, we haven't ordered pizza in probably 3 or 4 years. It's not that hard to make. And we get two meals from ours. And I've never even have the urge to serve it in a Domino's Box just to pretend! So this next snippet really has me wondering what kind of relationship this woman has with her husband:
Holly Levitsky, a 56-year-old supermarket cashier in Cleveland, buys a brand of steak sauce called Briargate for 85 cents and surreptitiously pours it into an A1 steak sauce bottle she keeps at home.

“My husband can’t even tell the difference,” she said.

Seriously, is she just being funny or would he pop her across the mouth if he knew she didn't buy A-1 sauce? I'm a little suspicious about why someone would go to the trouble to pour one bottle into another.

Today I made my own small sacrifice at the supermarket. I've been buying 12-ounce cans of mixed nuts that sell for $3.99 and contain an assortment of nuts -- but none of the cheaper peanuts. My treat is to snack on just 5 or 6 before dinner.

Today I was searching for the can and couldn't find it. I stared at the shelves at least 45 seconds to a minute before realizing they had changed the packaging. Instead of being in a can, they were in a short clear plastic container. Whereas the weight in the can had been 12-ounces, the new weight is 9-ounces.

And the price? Oh, they're still $3.99. If my math is correct, that's 25% fewer nuts for the same price. Instead of those, I bought a 16-ounce container of just peanuts for $2.39.

Let's make this a Question of the Day. Have you started trimming back on any purchases due to the economy, or buying lower cost brands?

Last year I started eliminating organic cheese because the price was about $6.00 for what was probably an 8-ounce package. I was very disappointed in some of the non-organic cheeses I purchased -- the flavor simply wasn't nearly as good. However, we did finally try the store-brand aged cheddar which was surprisingly delicious and only $3.29 for a 10-ounce package. Considering the amount of cheese we eat, that's a significant savings.

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