kottke.org posts about odd economic indicators

Products that did well during the recessionFeb 04 2010

They include camping gear, Hyundai cars, and upscale generic products. (via mr)

The baked bean index and other economic indicatorsSep 21 2009

A bunch of odd economic indicators that I have read about recently. The use of the 2nd Street Tunnel in Los Angeles in car commercials:

According to FilmL.A., the nonprofit organization that coordinates on-location shooting in the city, no permits have been issued in 2009 for car commercials. Although commercial production in the city is flagging anyway -- down 34% in the first quarter -- the 100% drop in tunnel permits suggests "very tough times in the car business," FilmL.A. spokesman Todd Lindgren said.

The reinstatement of the £90 lingerie-and-blouse allowance at London law firm Clifford Chance:

Inevitably dubbed the "90 nicker knicker allowance", this may or may not be the most reliable indicator yet that the credit crunch is over. (Business is apparently so hectic that the firm has also installed sleeping pods.)

And from this article, several others, including:

The baked bean index -- my colleague Anthony Reuben noted in the spring how the value of sales of baked beans -- a classic recession food -- had risen 21.6% in April compared with the same month last year. Could a reverse signal the start of a recovery?

The number of people signing up to dating agencies offering extra-marital affairs, on the basis that demand goes up either in times of excessive confidence -- "I won't get caught"; or depression -- "I don't care". (Sex had to figure somewhere.)

(via schott's vocab log)

Update: But wait, there's more! Sex dolls, vendor gifts, and the Puma Index.

Update: The 90-pound knicker allowance is bollocks. (thx, cheryl)

Update: How about the closing speed of car salesmen around a prospective buyer?

Here's an indicator economists should study as they study GDP: speed with which, upon entering a store, you are surrounded by salesmen. (I would record both gather-rate-in fractions of a second-and density.) I was approached by the first salesman as I came in the door, picked up another as I went by the reception desk, picked up a third as I skirted a Buick Enclave. I looked back when I reached the Corvettes. There must have been ten salesmen back there and more coming, spilling out of offices and break rooms like police cruisers appearing from side streets to chase Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit. We moved in a buzzing cloud around the Corvette. From a distance, we would have made a fine subject for a painting in the National Gallery: Salesmen and Commission; or, Depression and Its Discontents. When I stood and stared and pretended to think, they stood back and stared and pretended to think. "You know, it's not so expensive if you realize you're buying it over the course of three years."

Update: And a bunch more from Time's Cheapskate blog.

Update: And still more! Hair dye (more is sold in down times) and complimentary kids crayons at restaurants (50% fewer crayons per package).

The Hot Waitress IndexAug 03 2009

To the ever growing list of odd economic indicators (sushi, lipstick, Coca-Cola), we can now add the hotness of your waitress.

The indicator I prefer is the Hot Waitress Index: The hotter the waitresses, the weaker the economy. In flush times, there is a robust market for hotness. Selling everything from condos to premium vodka is enhanced by proximity to pretty young people (of both sexes) who get paid for providing this service. That leaves more-punishing work, like waiting tables, to those with less striking genetic gifts. But not anymore.

The same article also mentions the Overeducated Cabbie Index, the Squeegee Man Apparition Index, and the Speed at Which Contractors Return Calls Index.

Update: A possible related metric: the quality of street musicians.

Update: Yet another economic indicator: men's underwear.

"It's a prolonged purchase," said Marshal Cohen, senior analyst with the consumer research firm NPD Group. "It's like trying to drive your car an extra 10,000 miles."

Spam's fortunes rise and fallNov 17 2008

The amount of spam email decreased by more than 66% last week after a single company was knocked offline by their ISP after the Washington Post dug into their activities. But sales of Spam, the midwestern delicacy, are up, up, up because of the crappy economy.

Through war and recession, Americans have turned to the glistening canned product from Hormel as a way to save money while still putting something that resembles meat on the table. Now, in a sign of the times, it is happening again, and Hormel is cranking out as much Spam as its workers can produce.

In a factory that abuts Interstate 90, two shifts of workers have been making Spam seven days a week since July, and they have been told that the relentless work schedule will continue indefinitely.

People are also buying fewer socks and more frozen pot pies. And Spam can be added to the list of unlikely economic indicators, joining sushi, Big Macs, cigarettes, and others.

Update: Oh, and lipstick.

An indicator based on the theory that a consumer turns to less expensive indulgences, such as lipstick, when she (or he) feels less than confident about the future. Therefore, lipstick sales tend to increase during times of economic uncertainty or a recession.

(thx, dann)

Lipstick as economic indicatorMay 07 2008

Lipstick as economic indicator.

Ms. Stein's rationale for buying lipstick echoes a theory once proposed by Leonard Lauder, the chairman of Estee Lauder Companies. After the terrorist attacks of 2001 deflated the economy, Mr. Lauder noticed that his company was selling more lipstick than usual. He hypothesized that lipstick purchases are a way to gauge the economy. When it's shaky, he said, sales increase as women boost their mood with inexpensive lipstick purchases instead of $500 slingbacks.

More economic indicators: sushi, Big Macs, steakhouses, Starbucks coffee, Coca-Cola, cigarettes, and Jay-Z.

The sushi economyJun 11 2007

Adding sushi to the ever-growing list of everyday consumables as economic indicators: steak, Big Macs, Starbucks coffee, Coca-Cola, and cigarettes.

The Coca-Cola indexJun 09 2006

Big Mac index, meet the Coca-Cola index. The more wealthy, democratic, and the higher the quality of life, the more likely a country's inhabitants are to drink Coke. See also Starbucks as economic indicator.

Hobo financial indicatorsMar 29 2006

Hobo financial indicators, or how to tell what the stock/bond markets are going to do based on how well hobos are living. Short discarded cigarette butts = bad, lots of dogs getting dental work at the vet = good, lots of litter on the floors of movie theatres = good. (thx, zacharie)

Tags related to odd economic indicators:
economics food Starbucks Coca Cola McDonalds

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