This is a given: the BC economy (the one we had Before the Crash) had too much of many important things. Too much debt. Too much consumption. Too much speculation in complicated financial instruments by bankers blind to the bubble inflating around them. That's not coming back.
Housing prices are not going to rebound 20 percent soon. The Dow is not getting back to 14,000 this decade, and maybe not the next. Circuit City, Linens 'n Things, Lehman Brothers – they're all extinct, like Studebaker. "We are never going back to the way we were," says Paco Underhill, chief executive officer of the retail consulting firm Envirosell.
You don't have to be a futurist to foresee that in the coming new economy just about everyone in the private sector, from consumers to financiers, will be looking to get the most they can for their dollars. You can sum the situation up in two words: "value rules."
In the old days of two years ago, the thrill was in the extras – the heated steering wheel or the size of the second shower in the master bedroom suite. Now it's in the percentage discount from the previous list price.
This change in economic attitudes could mark a shift in America's very way of life. Look at the Great Depression: It was a scarring experience that taught a generation to practice such acts of thrift as washing out plastic bags, to the puzzlement of their baby boomer kids. "The era of 'bling' is coming to a close," says Mr. Underhill.
2 RETURN OF THE TIGHTWAD
The new value rules have been reflected for months in that most sensitive of indicators of consumer attitudes – marketing. The sign of the times is a sign in the mall advertising "65 Percent Off!"