This article from CNBC paints a pretty gloomy picture. Malls are dead. Retail space is wildly overbuilt. The poor and middle class have no cash– and too much debt. Who really needs another shirt or ipod or kitchen device at this point? Trendy suburban brands like Lululemon may grow for awhile (mostly selling to households making 100K+), but niche stores can’t replace the Woolworths, Montgomery Wards, Sears, JC Penneys, etc. Huge vacant malls are the depressing evidence of the bust caused by the engineered boom.
One type of store is booming, however: high-end pawn shops. As Lew Rockwell points out, pawnbrokers perform the important role of lending without increasing the money supply.