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Here's the theory, briefly: Sales of men's underwear typically are stable because they rank as a necessity. But during times of severe financial strain, men will try to stretch the time between buying new pairs, causing underwear sales to dip.
"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.
I wonder what other unexpected things correlate to the economy?
“DURING a recession, laxatives go up, because people are under tremendous stress, and holding themselves back,” said Mr. Shapiro, now chief executive of SAGE, a Chicago-based consulting firm. “During a boom, deodorant sales go up, because people are out dancing around. When people have less money, they buy more of the things that have less water in them, things that are not so perishable. Instead of lettuce and steak and fruit, it’s rice and beans and grain and pasta. Except this time the price of pasta’s so high that it’s beans and rice.”
A recent Nielsen report listed tobacco, carbonated drinks and eggs as especially vulnerable to recession, and candy, beer and pasta sauce as recession-proof. On Thursday, Hershey’s announced third-quarter sales and income higher than last year’s. (“We offer a tremendous variety of affordable indulgences, and people love chocolate, even in hard times,” said Kirk Saville, a company spokesman.)
Almost anything can be an economic indicator. Back in the 1920s, the economist George Taylor conceived the hemline index, finding that skirts got longer as the economy slowed. These days, there’s been talk of a haircut index, with short locks signaling a market drop.