tbs090816What if you gave a back-to-school sale and nobody came? That’s what retailers are facing this year as many college students and grads face the frugal realities of their college debt. In the last recession we saw how interrelated the various elements of the economy are. Remember when they said, “Don’t worry, the recession will be contained in one sector,” but as time progressed, sector after sector collapsed like a line of falling dominos? The first domino to fall this time may be the $80 billion student loan debt.

Some Boomers are quick to point out how they were able to work their way through college without relying on the easy-to-get college loans available to the new generation. Some ask, “Why didn’t they realize that the money would have to be paid back?” as if somehow shifting the blame will make it their problem? This is not their problem. This is our problem!

Just like the stock market and housing sector collapse in the last recession, a major segment of the economy is beginning to buckle. 20 and 30-year-olds, saddled with high levels of student debt, have already begun to cut back on their retail spending. This should be their most productive and strongest time to contribute to our economy. Retailers are already seeing the hit. This will affect jobs, commerce, finances, – everything.

We all need these new buyers to spend to support the future of our economy. Their contribution is essential to our standard of living. None of us can afford to lose the buying power of this generation. Our economy has always been driven by retail sales. It has always been the canary in the coal mine. How can we save the canary? And by “we,” we are talking about retailers, lenders, the government, and the general public.

Perhaps we can reverse engineer a solution by starting with the goals that would work to everyone’s advantage? The folks with student debt get a reprieve. The retailers make the sales they need to keep the economy going, the lenders get paid, the government avoids a catastrophe, and the general public side-steps another recession.

We think a possible solution has to involve a large-scale refinancing program, interest forgiveness, and in some cases, where grad businesses create jobs, actual loan forgiveness. What is the cost of another recession? Can we avoid it with timely, and ultimately less costly, measures designed to free up the productivity and financial contribution of current student debtors? What is the value to the economy of increased sales, new jobs, and increased tax revenue? What is the value of a stronger and more wealthy generation that can ultimately be in a better position to pay those loans off? Are those values greater than the cost of a solution? We think so.

In the meantime, what can retailers do beside further reducing prices and extending payment terms? Retailers have the credibility and the influence to advise their elected officials on the solutions to this pending new recession.  They can warn about its attendant tax and financial implications to the government and overall economy. And they can call for immediate action before the next domino falls.

A quote from this post appeared in a recent article recent article in AMEX Open Forum.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are the Founders of Barefoot Wines, New York Times Bestselling Authors of The Barefoot Spirit, How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand and The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 Ways to Engage and Empower your People.

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.