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The New Ethics: When Will the (Retail) Market Bottom Out?

[EDITOR’S NOTE]: “Political Physics” by Monique King-Viehland will be back next week.

So NPR, NYT, and even FaN has done quite a few pieces, asking when the housing market will bottom out, you know really, really hit rock bottom, so that the folks that still have jobs and good credit can pick up a sweet deal on a house. The latest I’ve heard is Spring 2009.

pricetagHowever, lately I’ve become more concerned with another market bottoming out — Retail.

I’ve been finding it hard to acquire a new maternity wardrobe b/c every time I look up, the quality companies that I want to buy from are having bigger and bigger sales. If you thought the Black Friday deals were good, how about right before Christmas when lackluster sales meant slashed prices? Then how about picking up all the leftover inventory right after Christmas — it was practically free? And you know if Mervyns is going out of business, then higher-echelon brand names and stores can’t be far behind.

Should I wait a few months before ordering sized-up shoes for my swelling feet. If I wait til Spring of 2009 after the winter has passed, will I finally find a pair of Fryes boots in my miserly price range?

Also, I love my 2-door Echo, because it was the first big-girl car that I ever acquired for myself, however, it has no power steering or power locks and it probably won’t work with a car seat. Still, when should I buy a car to suit my new lifestyle? Conventional wisdom says now is the best time, because dealers have cars left over from the Christmas season, and they’re desperate to make room for the newer models. But I want a Ford Escape Hybrid. And Ford’s not doing so hot. Should I wait for them to bottom out, too?

Last but not least, when do these questions cross the line from smart shopper to crisis scavenger? I don’t believe that Americans should shop our way back to economic stability, but I also don’t want to dance on the graves of all of our ruined businesses. What do you guys think? Have you dealt with the same ethical questions? And  what do you think is appropriate shopping behavior for the current economic climate?

. photo credit: Mohamad Hisyam