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Money Talks

Why we keep panic shopping even when the store shelves are stocked

An illustration of hundreds of toilet paper rolls stacked up in a single shopping cart.
An illustration of hundreds of toilet paper rolls stacked up in a single shopping cart.

Money Talks is a column that explores what happens when business, the economy, and culture collide.

Crises have a way of reshaping behavior in ways that endure long after the trouble has passed. The stock market crash of 1929 scared ordinary Americans out of the stock market for decades. The Great Depression that followed famously instilled habits of thriftiness and caution in an entire generation. 9/11 remade our expectations of what you had to do to get on an airplane or even walk into an office building.

Ever since the coronavirus hit in March, businesses and pundits and social scientists…

How ‘shoptimism’ drives consumers even when it’s irrational

About a month ago, as the stark reality of the pandemic lockdown set in, I hit a personal low point — worried and pessimistic about the economy in general, about the financial future of my city and of my household.

Then I went online and bought something I didn’t need.

Specifically, a swimsuit — from Patagonia no less — even though I already have perfectly fine swimwear and, more to the point, the public pools where I live are closed for the foreseeable future. But swimming is one of my prized routines that the lockdown shattered. So my needless purchase…

The retailer’s portfolio of private-label goods is driving healthy profit margins

Digitally-native vertical brands (DNVBs) have exploded in the past decade with lower entry costs and, naturally, more competition. The business model Warby Parker popularized— starting in 2010 — has bled into every imaginable consumer goods product class. Shelves are getting more crowded and products are less differentiated.

A few solutions for this saturated market have arisen: VCs are pouring loads of money into burgeoning companies. Existing companies are creating ways to make their products visible at every customer touchpoint. And some brands are being acquired by larger conglomerates, or even starting their own conglomerates.

An estimated $4 billion has been…

From White Claw to Trump Straws, consumer culture brought us stuff we loved, loathed, and were baffled by

What’s the best way to tell the story of 2019 — of who we were and what we valued? Perhaps it’s the books we read, the politicians we elected, or the ideas we debated.

Nah. Look at the stuff. The Things. Objects. The products that overflow our commercial marketplace, designed for our consumption, that we loved, loathed, mocked, coveted, worried about, or just found so baffling we couldn’t stop obsessing about them.

Founder Stories

I went from Balenciaga to broke but found fulfillment in making my bootstrapped business my focus in life

What do you do when you’re not feeling fulfilled? You buy things.

I was the chief marketing officer of a national brand, making six figures with disposable income to burn. But even though I had money, I was broke. Not literally, but in the sense that nothing was ever “enough.”

I was living the Sex and the City dream, with Louboutins to boot, and not a clue of what I was working toward. I was working to sustain the lifestyle I was handcuffed to. And because I wasn’t fulfilled by what I was doing, I’d shop my uncomfortable feelings away.

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