The Current Crisis
The consumer has been traumatized the past six months by the spike in gasoline prices, and the current credit crisis only adds to the disquiet. Gas prices have had a psychological impact disproportionate to their actual increase, which can't be minimized.
The crisis only reinforces the feeling of uncertainty about the future, even as real estate prices appear to be bottoming out. While I feel there's a fair amount of pent up demand for discretionary goods, it's going to be a while before consumer confidence can be restored, and even then spending patterns are likely to be permanently altered in significant ways.