Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A simple shopping trip

I can’t give you a source for this information as I honestly don’t remember where I read it. Not too long ago I read a story about how much the federal stimulus checks have helped the Maine economy. You were probably among most of us who received a check which the Feds hoped would be used to purchase new goods for our lives. A few of use put the checks aside. Mine will be used to help pay for next winter’s oil.

If those checks did help the Maine economy, then my observations of yesterday would indicate that help is about all over. After I got home from my regular Tuesday Senior Fitness session, my wife and I decided we could use a little trip to the Mall area for some light shopping. I needed a couple of items at Wal-Mart, we both wanted a gadget for the kitchen and could save some money at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and she wanted some inexpensive shoes at Payless to wear where she works.

This was mid-morning and it’s entirely possible that all changed later in the day. As we drove into the Wal-mart parking lot, we both were totally surprised at the number of cars there. I didn’t count them, but I’d bet there were fewer than 50. And many of those probably belonged to employees. We had no trouble find a parking space right in front of the entrance. I mean “right in front.” Not even two or three spaces down the row. I have never seen so few people inside, either. I saw more people in the aisles returning goods to shelves that putting stuff into shopping carts.

Speaking of shelves, there were almost as many empty spaces or items spread out with huge gaps as there were empty parking spots out front. The items I wanted are not items that would go out of the store all day long. In fact I’d be surprised if they sell more than one or two a week. Yet they were very scarce on the shelves. I took the last two of both items.

Naturally, there were no lines at the checkout rows. Only three, perhaps four, were open and two of the clerks were out in the store area at the end of their rows enticing people to their rows.

I would say, though, the Scarborough Wal-mart has a really friendly greeter person who waits patiently for customers or rides around the story in a motorized wheel chair. He is one of the nicest people I’ve met at that store. He is severely handicapped but that won’t stop him. If you happen to go into that store and see him, stop for just a moment to say, “Hello.” You’ll meet one nice man whose only handicap is physical.

But I digress so back to my shopping trip. We went to the shopping center that’s anchored by Target to visit the household store and shoe store. We had the same experiences there, except the household store did a far better job filling shelves in a way to make them look full. The item we went for was there, the last one on the shelf so we did create an empty spot. There may have been one other customer in the store when we were there.

The shoe store had holes in its shelves and we were alone there with the clerk. But my wife was able to find a couple pair of inexpensive shoes to wear to her work place. Food products drip or fall regularly to the floor where she works and shoes tend to get sticky and messy. Since she doesn’t get a long time out of them, she only looks for some comfort knowing they’ll be replace in a couple of months. She found some.

We took a slightly longer route home so we could drive by the Mall to get an idea of how it was doing. We didn’t go into the Mall or into any of the stores there, but it was apparent driving by that we could have had a front row parking space in front of any entrance to the Mall or stores with outside entrances we wanted. The lot in front of only one store, the big appliance store facing the Mall Road (I remember when we called in the Payne Road.) had a goodly number of parked cars. Most of the rest of the place was virtually empty.

I probably was too early for my shopping trip to get a true indication of the shopping at the stores, but I couldn’t help but think that people are really thinking twice about shopping as the economy continues downhill. I probably missed all the activity when those stimulus checks came out, too. I’ll remind you that I mentioned this was a mid-morning trip yesterday, and Tuesdays aren’t known to be the busiest shopping day of the week, and it all could have changed later in the day, but I was truly surprised at the lack of apparent spending while we were out for a light shopping trip.


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