The second piece of bad news relates to the first. Because consumers were already borrowing heavily in the good times, both credit constraints and a long-overdue realism are likely to bite all the more deeply. That, too, is a tendency Barrell finds in the data.
Of course, as the lucky sellers of herbal Viagra are alleged to be discovering, when consumer spending falls, some products do well and others do very badly. Nervous retailers looking for cues might wish to pick up research from the 1990s in an article by economists Martin Browning and Thomas Crossley called "Shocks, Stocks, and Socks." They find that when people are unemployed, they save money in a logical way by not buying "small durables" such as socks and, indeed, clothes in general. In the short term, people get by and save about 15 percent of their household budget. When they find a new job, they replace the tired old socks.
Bad news for Gold Toe, good news for sellers of needles and thread.