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Shopping in recession

Natasha was shopping for new beds and mattresses before we could move into the new house.

She walked into a local franchise of Sleepy’s.

The shop was empty save for a lone salesperson. He eagerly approached his prospective customer and offered his help. What followed was an in-depth investigation of the entire stock. Natasha first laid down on a special adjustable bed, was told to relax as if she was falling asleep, and then to grade her comfort at different levels of mattress hardness. That was repeated in different “sleeping” positions – back, side, stomach… (here is the link on Sleepy’s website). Afterwards, Natasha plopped down on every available sample of the level of plushness that she liked the most. The sales guy and her discussed the fine points of density, core and tufting.

All that took a good hour and a half. In the end, Natasha bought a couple of nice mattresses for the family. The total bill was considerably lower than her expectations going in – there was enough of “promotional” room for the salesperson to make the deal attractive.

During that time, not a single other customer walked through the doors of the shop. Not one.

Later that same week, we together went to a couple of nearby furniture outlets to check out potential acquisitions. Again, the galleries were empty. The rare salespeople were fawning. We did not buy anything, being not exactly sure what we wanted and having not seen anything that immediately struck our fancy, but the overall experience was rather weird.

Furniture and mattresses are not everyday type of purchases, and people clearly cut back on buying that in the current economic climate. Surprisingly – or inexplicably – this was my first first-hand experience of how the recession affected commerce. Commuter buses fill up, restaurants have plenty of customers, everywhere I’ve been going in the last year or so, it was not readily noticeable that the crowds may have been thinner. Visiting a couple of empty higher-end shops was a bit of a jolt in that respect.

I suppose IKEA is doing an even livelier business than in years past, though…