There are many theories about what caused the current recession. Some feel it had to do with sneaky mortgages. Others believe it was the result of greedy Wall Street. And there are those who always look for somebody to blame who believe our financial problems are the result of the Republicans, the Democrats, aliens from outer space, or some secret society that meets every Thursday at the Holiday Inn. All of these people should just look down at their feet. That’s right. I’m suggesting it’s possible that shoes caused the whole financial downturn.
In recent months, many consumers have not been making purchases unless they think the items are absolutely necessary. This has been the case across the board — except when it comes to shoes. All kinds of shoes have been selling very well in the last few months while the rest of the economy continues to struggle.
People almost always buy shoes for themselves. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten shoes as a gift. You never hear the slogan, “Say it with shoes.” So some people buy shoes for themselves as a treat. The thinking goes like this: “We can’t afford a new car or to renovate the kitchen, so I’ll buy myself a nice pair of shoes.” If people are feeling low because of their low bank accounts, I guess they feel that shoes will lift their spirits.
I worry that with some of the wealthier consumers, there might be a “let them eat cake” philosophy. Perhaps there are people who think things like, “I don’t get why those people who lost their houses are so upset. Why don’t they just go out and buy some new boots?”
Jennifer Black of the research company Jennifer Black and Associates says, “It’s just fun to shop for shoes. Maybe part of the fun is you don’t feel fat.”
I’ve never had fun shopping for anything, but I guess some people do. I understand what Ms. Black is saying: Buying shoes is not as tortuous as shopping for a bathing suit or jeans that you can only put on if a pulley is involved.
Another group of people feel that a new pair of shoes is simply more of a necessity than a new purse or a new tie. Still others buy shoes they feel they need for an inexpensive vacation. Instead of going to a fancy resort, some people are taking advantage of free outdoor activities — activities in which they wear new outdoorsy shoes.
All of these reasons help explain why shoes are selling so well these days. Congress didn’t have to pass a stimulus bill for flip-flops. Shoe sales were $1.5 billion for October, which is the best October shoes have had since 2006.
Because of all of these reasons, I’m suspicious of the shoe industry. For every analyst who’s trying to explain why shoes are selling right now, I’m sure the shoe companies have at least one or two analysts of their own. So they would’ve known ahead of time that during a recession, people would still buy shoes. They would have known that since consumers won’t be buying many other things, people might buy more shoes than they’d purchase during good economic times. So a recession might actually help shoe companies.
That’s why I’m suggesting that the shoe industry may have caused the recession. Call it the Cobblers’ Cabal. Isn’t it just possible that those who are able to convince people to buy incredibly uncomfortable shoes are smart enough to bring about a recession? Countless people who don’t even run to catch a bus buy expensive running shoes. This is the business that, through brilliant marketing, has millions of people walking around in fur-lined boots in the middle of summer.
To you doubters, let me remind you that during the disco era, people actually bought platform shoes with a see-through heel that contained live goldfish swimming around. If the shoe geniuses can convince the American public to wear little aquariums on their feet, surely they could bring about something as simple as a recession. I’m telling you, there’s no business like shoe business.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his Web site at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.