Fearing what might be when it might not be

Color me somewhat confused.

I took my daughter and future son-in-law to a steakhouse Friday night and was intrigued to find the place absolutely packed. We got in line with a gaggle of friendly folks and waited our 30 minutes just to get a table. I would add that this place is enormous.

I sat there and looked around and wondered about the economy and this recession. Clearly, this business hasn’t been impacted whatsoever, but I know others have. A friend in the car business has virtually shut down for the month, because foot traffic has fallen off so much that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep a full staff of people.

So big ticket items have ground to a halt but people are still spending $100 for steaks at a fancy restaurant. What gives?

I read a prediction today that people aren’t going to buy as many TVs this holiday season as was originally thought. But who really knows that? I’ll bet if I’d asked the people at the restaurant, they might have expressed caution, but it’s more like we’re just waiting — waiting to see what happens next.

What is going to happen next? I think that’s a good question. I watched Steve Forbes the other night, and he thinks there’s plenty of money available for loans to begin again, and that recovery will be less than six months. Others, however, are pretty grim.

Meanwhile, a local car dealer is advertising to come to them to “get your share of the 750-billion dollar bailout.” Huh? I saw a sign outside the bank at the local Kroger that said, “Has your bank failed? Ours hasn’t.” Leave it to marketers to take advantage of consumer nerves.

And then there’s this very curious entry from Michael Arrington at TechCrunch that showed up last week. He makes the case that a lot of companies are using the economy to downsize and get rid of dead wood, because it makes such a convenient excuse. I think he’s right and that there’s a lot of that going around.

What about the media? Emily Bell, the Guardian’s digital director, says we’re on the verge of the apocalypse.

“We are standing at the brink of what will be two years of carnage for western media. Nobody in my business has got a grip of it yet,” said Bell.

“We are at the meeting point now of a systematic down turn and a cyclical collapse.

“Even the surviving brands will have to undergo a long period of what’s essentially an unprofitable existence,” said Bell, adding that publishers faced an ‘institutional challenge’ in getting the success of traditional, offline revenues to move online.

However, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) says traditional media still has five years of growth left. Marcel Fenez of PriceWaterhouseCooper told a readership conference in Hong Kong (like, who in media has the money to attend a friggin’ conference in Hong Kong?) that over 50s are helping to sustain old models.

“One of the things we need to get into context here is that traditional media isn’t dead yet and won’t be for the next five years.”

That warms my heart.

Meanwhile, UBS has cut its advertising forecast for 2009 and says local television will take the brunt of the hit. It’s the economy plus no Olympics or Election. Who knew?

And I just read a nice piece in Variety that the networks are going to be bringing back more old programs, shows that died a natural death many years ago. The suits apparently think it’s smart to resurrect them in the hope that a new generation will grab on. We’re talking Hawaii Five‑O, folks. And The Partridge Family. And The Streets of San Francisco.

On Five‑O, CBS Paramount Network TV president David Stapf told Variety, “It’s got that great theme song.”

I’ve digressed and I apologize for that, but this is all connected in my weird mind. I think the economy is shaky, but after the election, the candidates — and the press covering them — will stop telling us how awful things are, and I think that’ll help. And I agree with Arrington that businesses are smart to be using the excuse of the economy to trim their staffs, and I think that will be evident when they start (quietly) hiring again.

Meanwhile, I think we all just need to keep on keeping on, because there ain’t no sense living in the fear of what might be, when it might not be after all.


  1. Digression? No, this is a great post. I agree with all of it. I would suggest, though, that the steakhouse is full on Friday because people are still going to go out on the weekend. But that business is down Sunday through Thursday because those are disgressionary days.

    We have seen single copy newspaper purchases drop in the past month, which we attribute directly to fear about the economy and job losses.

  2. is that the future son-in-law that gets his eyebrows waxed?

  3. Two fairly large moderately-priced restaurants in Salem, Oregon went under last month. They were considered fixtures. A friend who owns a fine-dining establishment has experienced his slowest summer/fall in 20 years; yet, as his landlords start to indicate they are thinking about selling the building, he is thinking of buying. It’s a mixture of hope that things will get better soon and denial that things could be as bad as they seem to be.

  4. I note they’re still selling $1,000 pairs of shoes in New York City — where the banks are failing.

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