THE INTERNET—5 Things Affected by the Economy (Time)
Consumer activity gives a good indication of how the economy is holding up, and here are five trends indicating that consumers are having a particularly hard time lately.
New York Times traces the increased popularity of locally vegetables, particularly in rural areas such as eastern Kentucky. In many farmers markets run in cities, consumers are accustomed to paying somewhat of a premium for organic, freshly harvested, locally grown produce. Rural shoppers, by contrast, are gathering veggies from local sources—often, in their own backyards, or their neighbors’—as a money saver as much as for the taste or health benefits. The rise in backyard gardens began at least during the peak recession-era days of 2009, when there was a substantial uptick in sales of vegetable seeds. A NY Times story from 2009 noted that 19% more households planned to grow gardens that year, and 54% of people with gardens said they were trying to trim their families’ food expenses.
The comeback of layaway. Following the lead of competitors such as Sears, Kmart, and Toys R Us, Walmart has decided to bring back layaway as an option for customers, at least on a limited basis. As reported by the Washington Post, the AP, and others, Walmart, which discontinued layaway in 2006, is offering the old-fashioned payment plan system to help financially-strapped consumers during the upcoming winter holiday shopping season. Layaway will be an option for electronics and toys that cost at least $50 from October 17 to December 16. Shoppers must initially put at least 10% down on the item, and there’s a $5 service fee—along with a $10 fee if the customer decides to cancel. Note that while layaway helps consumers short of cash in one way, it’s not really a money saver at all.
Lottery ticket sales on the rise. In a recent review of figures from 41 state lotteries, 28 reported higher sales for the fiscal year ending in June—and 17 of those boasted all-time record highs for sales, according to USA Today. At a time when more people are clinging more tightly to their dollars, why would there be an increase in money wasted in lotteries? When people feel desperate, and that events are entirely out of their control, they’re more likely to take long shots, one psychology professor explains:
Kate Sweeny, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California-Riverside, said an uptick in lottery sales largely occurs when people feel a lack of control over events larger than themselves, such as the economy.
Fewer disposable diapers purchased. In recent years, sales of disposable diapers have decreased at the same time that sales of diaper rash creams and ointments have steadily risen. The conclusion being reached (by some) from the data is this: Parents are changing kids’ diapers less often to save money—or, perhaps because, thanks to the economy, caregivers are too distracted or overwhelmed to realize in a timely fashion that the child’s in need of a change. In either case, the economy is making life stink.
Pet shelters too full to accept more animals. There was a noticeable increase in animal abandonment during the heart of the recession, when many owners were forced to move or just discovered they couldn’t afford to their pets, Now, per the San Francisco Chronicle, some shelters have reached full capacity and can no longer accept pets. Not only are pet drop-offs up, but adoptions are down: For the first time ever at one shelter, two weeks passed without a single cat being adopted.
World's Best Cities (Yahoo! Travel)
A new renaissance is under way in Florence, with the city’s historic center making room for contemporary galleries and chic aperitivo bars. And all that work has paid off: this year, Florence rose to the No. 2 ranking among T+L’s World’s Best Cities.
T+L asked readers to vote in its 16th annual World’s Best survey, rating worldwide cities in categories such as attractions, arts and culture, food, shopping, and value. The result is a global guide to the cities not to miss this year.
Despite the challenging economy, travel is up, with more than 270 million travelers hitting the road this year, according to the Airports Council International. More travel means more insights into what makes a city great — whether it’s efficient transportation, affordable dining, or youthful energy — and how cities compare on a global basis. After all, the thrill of a country is most often reflected in its city life. “Cities absolutely dominate over countryside experiences for travelers,” says T+L A-List super agent Priscilla Alexander of Protravel International. “You won’t have someone going to France and not going to Paris.”
No. 10 Paris
Ah, Paris. Every cobbled lane, every street-side café, every patisserie window seems to have been art-directed by some impossibly savvy set designer. Yet for all that elegance and drama, Paris’ greatest pleasures are arguably its simplest ones: the hum of a neighborhood bistro; the tranquility of a churchyard; the crunch of a perfect baguette. After all, you come to Paris to eat. Indulge serious cheese fantasies at Laurent Dubois, a fromagerie with seemingly endless options.
No. 9 Barcelona
Barcelona has long been famous for its art and architecture, with Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Antoni Gaudí all leaving their marks. But this is the first year that the Catalan city has broken into the World’s Best Cities top 10 list. Though diversions like wandering the Gaudí-designed Parc Güell have a timeless appeal, it’s new hot spots like Tickets, from mad-scientist brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià, that are creating the worldwide buzz. Where to stay? At the new Mandarin Oriental, where the Hong Kong hotel group’s legendary service is paired with Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola’s 98 bright, cream-on-white rooms.
No. 8 Sydney
Part outsize beach resort, part culture capital, Sydney, the perennial World’s Best City winner Down Under, exemplifies the art of relaxed cosmopolitanism: urbane but not pretentious; cutting-edge but not stressed-out. New restaurants and boutiques are channeling that Aussie energy in some oft-overlooked neighborhoods such as beachside hangout Manly. And an initiative to liven up the side lanes in the trendy Surry Hills and Darlinghurst neighborhoods has led to a slew of lounge bars opening up; try the lychee-infused tequila at Hunky Dory Social Club.
No. 7 Siem Reap