In today’s New York Times, a story reports the decline of middle class consumption:
“As politicians and pundits in Washington continue to spar over whether economic inequality is in fact deepening, in corporate America there really is no debate at all. The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.”
“The top 5 percent of earners accounted for almost 40 percent of personal consumption expenditures in 2012, up from 27 percent in 1992. Largely driven by this increase, consumption among the top 20 percent grew to more than 60 percent over the same period” The bottom 80 percent accounted for just 39 percent in 2012, down from 47% in 1992.
The impact on the economy is noticeable. Upscale products and services are booming Stores that serve the middle class are not. “Sears and J. C. Penney, retailers whose wares are aimed squarely at middle-class Americans, are both in dire straits. Last month, Sears said it would shutter its flagship store on State Street in downtown Chicago, and J. C. Penney announced the closings of 33 stores and 2,000 layoffs.”
The article gives some examples of the impact of income inequality in terms of restaurants:
“Foot traffic at midtier, casual dining properties like Red Lobster and Olive Garden has dropped in every quarter but one since 2005, according to John Glass, a restaurant industry analyst at Morgan Stanley. With diners paying an average tab of $16.50 a person at Olive Garden, Mr. Glass said, “The customers are middle class. They’re not rich. They’re not poor.” With income growth stagnant and prices for necessities like health care and education on the rise, he said, “They are cutting back.” On the other hand, at the Capital Grille, an upscale Darden chain where the average check per person is about $71, spending is up by an average of 5 percent annually over the last three years.”
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