I popped into the baker early this morning to pick up a coffee and a croissant. She and her husband are regular visitors to the shop for a massage, and I’ll pop by there for a sandwich if I can get free. They’re French and very pleasant people and both being local shopkeepers we stop to have a chat about ‘things’. We did so again today.
I imagine there’s a curious language that shopkeepers speak. A year ago I’d have had no notion of it. These days I speak it fluently myself. It’s all about how things are going, about trade, about marketing, about people on the street. If you’re not talking about it you’re scrutinising the numbers to see what mysteries are revealed.
This morning as she handed me my flat white my baker friend leant forward and in a loud whisper and a dramatic flash of her eyes mentioned how she had gone for a walk earlier with her daughter and how “there’s no-one on the streets. It’s so quiet!”
Reversing our national characteristics I shrugged my shoulders, as often I will. I didn’t really want to discuss it with a group of customers at my back. Besides, what is there to say? It was significant that she had mentioned it though. There’s the temptation to think you’re in it alone, and therefore by extension that you’ve done something wrong. It’s reassuring to find that’s not the case. So it’s common-place I thought, without too much surprise.
I’ve cogitated on this for a few weeks. I’m sure there are a lot of factors contributing to this situation, but overriding them all I think is the message we’ve been getting out of Canberra – which is basically, “we’re fucked”.
Until 6 weeks ago we, the shop, were doing very nicely. Then it began to decline. That pre-dated the federal budget, but coincided with the run-up to it – a period replete with negative and often extravagant sentiment, almost all of it from the government. We were being softened up. Then of course the budget got handed down and it was an unmitigated disaster – still is. And all throughout this my business, and seemingly others, have suffered.
You often hear warnings about talking the economy down for fear of what the fall-out of that will be. Unfortunately the danger appears to be real. I’m surprised at how many people buy this politically expedient bullshit, but given how so many people take their cues from the media I guess it makes perfect sense.
The government still talks this way. It suits their political purposes to make these outlandish, and outrageously inaccurate, statements about the national finances. As much as anything I think the ‘vibe’ of that language has permeated the national consciousness. Combine that with a scorched earth budget and hey fucking presto, consumer confidence plummets – as all the figures confirm. From there it’s just a procession. Bad consumer sentiment leads to a drop in consumer spending, in economic activity, all of which has a cascading effect, until the local economy stalls.
It’s in all the news how many retailers are struggling at the moment. Maybe that’s the unseasonal weather, but more so I think the unfortunate consequences of some very irresponsible language from Hockey, Abbott, et al. Now I’m struggling, the baker, and any number of small retailers. It’s a reprehensible state of affairs when your own government is doing this.