Retailers Cringe As Geithner Gets What He Wished For

103204869 Retailers Cringe As Geithner Gets What He Wished ForIn his N.Y.U. speech this Monday, Tim Geithner told the American people to be careful with their money. But the people evidently don’t need telling.

“The core challenge is to save a larger share of income, to borrow more responsibly and to be sure we better understand the risks involved in investing and borrowing,” his speech went. He discouraged extravagance: “Americans are rediscovering the importance of living within their means.” He called that “necessary and healthy.”

Well, there’s one investment Americans have already curbed: stuff. The AP reports today that retailers saw only “modest gains” last month, when sales rose only 2.8 percent, falling short of the gains that were expected.

This raises the question, which “means” was Mr. Geithner talking about living within? The current means, or the former? “We are now in an environment where the dollars in consumers’ pockets are fewer,” portfolio manager Lawrence Creatura said. “The competition for those dollars has increased.” If you’re feeling poor, retailers are saying, please don’t act that way.