Your Clothes and Rising Inequality
If you like looking good,
you ought to fear what rising levels of inequality
are doing to America’s apparel future.
by Sam Pizzigati
Can the widening gap between America’s most affluent and everyone else be impacting the clothes on our backs? You bet. Who’s saying so? Insiders in America’s apparel industry.
“Discussions about income inequality may seem an abstract concern,” one of those insiders, Robert Antoshak, wrote earlier this week in Just-Style, an industry trade journal. But inequality brings “real-world consequences” that have “our industry standing in the balance.”
Antoshak and other thoughtful analysts are buzzing about a new report from the national consulting firm Deloitte. Researchers at that firm spent “the better part of a year” looking at how the last decade has impacted retail in America. They surveyed consumers, interviewed widely within the retail industry, and studied the underlying economic data.
All that work kept bringing Deloitte back to what the firm sees as the central retail story of the past ten years: growing inequality.
On the surface, Deloitte observes in The Great Retail Bifurcation, things don’t look so bad economically. Unemployment has dropped, housing has stabilized, and median incomes in the United States now even slightly surpass income levels back in 2007.
But all these hopeful stats, says Deloitte, shade what has “actually been an abysmal decade for most Americans.” The bottom 80 percent of U.S. households have experienced, the consultant firm details, “a dramatic worsening of their financial situation.”
The biggest problem the nation faces? A “vastly disproportionate share in income growth,” Deloitte explains, “has gone to high-income households.”
Households in America’s most affluent 20 percent, the firm notes, have pocketed almost all the nation’s gains from a rising stock market. These households own $35 of every $36 of stock. And the richest of these affluent, the top 1 percent, are doing the best of all. In 2017, the Deloitte researchers point out, top 1 percenters “grabbed 82 percent of all wealth created in the United States.”