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Old Trader is a 63 year old private investor, managing a retirement portfolio constructed to a) generate a high current yield, b) preserve capital, and c) increase capital. His methodology involves taking a "top down" macro view to identify favorable trends, and then engage in... More
  • The Cautious Consumer: Anecdotal Evidence From The Heartland 9 comments
    Jul 5, 2010 4:27 PM


    Like many others, evidently, I spent my 4th of July holiday at home, or at least very close by. What follows are my observations of what consumer behavior, here in Chicago, was like.


    I normally listen to WBBM-AM radio (CNN), which among other things, provides traffic and weather “on the eights”. Starting from Thursday afternoon, through the weekend, traffic on all of the area freeways and Interstates was unusually light, excepting the occasional fender bender, which would a fairly short-lived traffic tie-up.


    Exceptions to the above was inbound traffic from the northwest suburbs on Friday afternoon, which is actually fairly typical, as suburbanites come into the city for wining, dining, and entertainment. This weekend was the last weekend of the annual “Taste Of Chicago”, a very popular event featuring a large assortment of various restaurants and eateries selling “tastes” of their wares, in an effort to entice new customers to their establishments. Again, this is an event that draws a mostly suburban crowd, as most, if not all, of the exhibitors are known to denizens of the city.


    It should be noted that this is not an especially “cheap” event. Excluding gas, but including parking, (admittance is free), its not at all difficult for a couple to spend $75-$100 for a couple of hours of tasting. Although I’ve not heard official estimates of attendance yet, I did hear that the amount of unsold food that gets donated to the Chicagoland Food Depository, after the close of the event, was up slightly from last year. A spokesperson for the depository allowed as how the food was great welcomed, and appreciated, due to skyrocketing demand.


    I watched the fireworks from a 27th floor balcony of a high rise in the trendy River North neighborhood. Immediately to the west is a street lined with a vast variety of upscale restaurants. Normally, on a holiday evening, the traffic is at a crawl, as people jockey to find the all too scarce parking spots, or drop off their cars at the valet parking services employed by all of the restaurants.


    Last night, however, the street was empty, save for a multitude of cruising taxicabs, searching for non-existent fares. Were it not for the cabs, I wouldn’t have surprised to see tumbleweeds rolling down the street. It was incredibly eerie!


    This all seems to tie in with an ever increasing amount of empty storefronts that I see, as I drive around town. This is not limited to any particular economic strata, as my “day job” takes me through all sorts of areas, from the toniest, to those were one makes DAMN sure the car is locked, nothing of apparent value is left in clear view, and one would do well to avoid altogether after night fall.


    Disclosure: No positions
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  • Carlos Lam
    , contributor
    Comments (1294) | Send Message
    Indiana (your neighbor to the east) is the same. Indianapolis restaurants have nowhere near the long waits they used to have during the goldilocks days.


    One legal metric that's interesting to consider is appellate work. In the boom times, litigants hired firms to appeal trial court decisions. Now, folks I know in the appellate business as well as those who work at the appellate courts say that appeals are WAY down from their hayday.
    6 Jul 2010, 11:40 AM Reply Like
  • Old Trader
    , contributor
    Comments (5732) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Carlos,


    Thanks for chiming in on things in Indy. I'm often in the northwest corner of the state (anywhere from Munster to Valpo, but I don't get south very much at all.
    6 Jul 2010, 07:30 PM Reply Like
  • Jeff Miller
    , contributor
    Comments (2083) | Send Message
    The Ribfest in Naperville appears to have set a new record (with expanded grounds).


    The Outlet Mall in Aurora was jammed Saturday afternoon -- people turned away from the parking lot. There were sales.


    Business was brisk at the Naperville Comp USA -- no particular deals offered.


    I imagine that people are looking for deals.
    6 Jul 2010, 05:45 PM Reply Like
  • Old Trader
    , contributor
    Comments (5732) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Jeff,


    I found it interesting, as I was watching the fireworks, that it seemed the displays in the western and northern 'burbs seemed much more impressive than the city's. Of course, from my vantage point, I could only see Montrose Harbor, but not Navy Pier, nor the display from the 63rd St. beach, on the south side.


    Thanks for dropping in, and filling in some more blanks!
    6 Jul 2010, 07:34 PM Reply Like
  • richjoy403
    , contributor
    Comments (13708) | Send Message
    And now a report from the (Oakland County) burbs of Detroit (clearly one of the hardest hit cities in both good times and bad):


    With all the local economic problems, it is inexplicable to me that so many people have so much to spend in restaurants!


    However, an observation of persons at Twelve Oaks Mall carrying packages suggests malls are clearly suffering a decline in shoppers.
    7 Jul 2010, 08:10 AM Reply Like
  • Old Trader
    , contributor
    Comments (5732) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » richjoy,


    I wonder how popular Groupons are in that neck of the woods? Here, they seem to be very popular, with many restaurants issuing them.
    7 Jul 2010, 09:15 AM Reply Like
  • neophyte investor
    , contributor
    Comments (6) | Send Message
    I have been a big fan of Groupon, you just need to check out the restaurants reviews like on yelp to make sure you don't get burned. Also watch your expiration dates, I've lost a couple Groupons because I wasn't careful of the dates.
    12 Jul 2010, 08:12 PM Reply Like
  • Old Trader
    , contributor
    Comments (5732) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » neophyte,


    Thanks for the "heads up". ;-)
    12 Jul 2010, 09:11 PM Reply Like
  • richjoy403
    , contributor
    Comments (13708) | Send Message
    Old Trader
    I am aware groupons started in Chicago, and are available in a few other cities; I don't know that they are available (or if available, are widely used) in suburban Detroit.


    Perhaps other suburban Detroit residents will offer a strong opinion.
    7 Jul 2010, 09:36 AM Reply Like
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