Daily Video

July 15, 2009

Recession Changes Shopping Habits

In a slumping economy with record job losses and foreclosures on homes and businesses, Americans are being forced to slow the rate of consumption that has been rising over the last few decades.

As part of an ongoing series NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman asks the question, what will this slump in buying do to the economy and the workers that depend on it?

Paco Underhill, a trained environmental psychologist and author of the international marketing bestseller “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping”, says that a reduction in consumption is ultimately good for the economy as the engine of the economy must be “recalibrated.”


“I want you to be spending what you can afford. We have Americans out there whose credit card debt exceeds their annual income. We have an entire generation of Americans with little or no fiscal discipline or financial knowledge.” Paco Underhill, author, “Why We Buy”

“What we’re seeing here is a time in which our retail world is probably going to contract. It is going to contract, and that’s because we are over-stored, meaning that most retail entities would be eminently healthier if they were smaller.” Paco Underhill, author, “Why We Buy”

“I think part of what is upsetting to the American public in these troubling economic times is when they don’t have the privilege of going to the market, because that’s a very reassuring moment, in terms of having a sense of community.” Paco Underhill, author, “Why We Buy”

“Acquiring that iPod or that tube of lipstick or that Maserati doesn’t change us into anyone other than what we were to start out with and that, therefore, our relationship to consumption here has to be more real.” Paco Underhill, author, “Why We Buy”

Warm Up Questions

1. Name some necessary items you must buy every week. Name some items that you don’t need, but buy anyway. Are you cutting back on either kind of item?

2. What kinds of jobs are affected when people shop less?

Discussion Questions

1. Paco Underhill says that some households have debt exceeding their annual income. What does this mean and why is it a bad thing? How can it be fixed?

2. Do you find it interesting that someone whose job is to help stores sell more is advocating for less consumption? Why do you think he advocates that?

3. Paco Underhill says that “many Americans are deeply frightened.” What frightens you and your friends?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

In-depth Coverage: The Exchange

Paul Solman: The Business Desk

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