Yesterday our roofing company came to do some work at our home. We had used them a couple of years ago and at that time had waited a few weeks for them to be available. This time the crew showed up a few days after we had requested them. The owner mentioned that things have been slow and slowing for some time. Where large roofing companies used to be busy with the biggest projects, now they are taking whatever jobs are available. This means that smaller crews are having a hard time keeping steady. “We used to do one job a day, 6 days a week. Now we are lucky to get 3 jobs a week”, he said.
Last night I went to Zehrs to get the week’s groceries. At the entrance there was a sign “Save Springwater Park” and a woman soliciting signatures in support. Springwater Park has been a treasured provincial park, just north of Barrie for more than 50 years. We bought yearly passes for it when our kids were small. “The province is cutting a huge portion of its funding,” she explained, “the wildlife and educational support are being phased out”. “Cutbacks are everywhere it seems,” I said in sympathy as I signed. “Unless you’re a banker” she added. “Good point”, I said, surprised to hear her say what was in my head, “good luck.”
At the checkout at 8 pm, there was only one cashier line open and no one helping to bag. When the 60 something Scottish lady finished ringing me through, she stopped to help me finish bagging. “No helpers tonight,” I offered. “Oh no”, she said, “the cutbacks are getting downright scary if you ask me. We are now on skeleton staff in the evenings and they laid 700 people off at Loblaws head office today. “Really?” I was taken back, I hadn’t heard. “Seems customers are spending less these days than they used to” she went on, “everyone seems to be scrimping and saving. Pretty frightening if you ask me”. I could feel her worry.
As I was driving home, I was thinking back to a time before the superstores. Remember when grocery stores sold groceries but not clothes, cell phones, patio furniture and kitchen appliances? I remembered the recent news on how Rona was moving away from 25 million dollar superstores to smaller $500K neighborhood hardware stores. Downsizing to meet the smaller spending habits of heavily indebted and now newly frugal customers. It seems that scaled down grocery stores are likely coming next.
I know that this is the inevitable process in a de-leveraging world: less government funding, less consumer spending, smaller and cheaper over bigger and more expensive. Healthy in the longer run, but painful for many as the global economy downsizes from the credit bubble. Credit abuse boosted consumption and now it is taking away.