Strange Signs the Economy's Tanking

  • Seeing the Signs

    Unemployment, construction and foreclosures are some of the more obvious ways to gauge the state of the U.S. economy. But predictions of our financial future may also be found in seemingly silly trends and signs that might be right under your nose … or on your body, in your medicine cabinet or outside your front door. Here are some of the strangest ways we may be able to tell where our economy is headed this year. Photo Credit: heyjoewhereyougoinwiththatguninyourhand
    Men’s Underwear
  • Men’s Underwear

    Men’s underwear is one of the more well-known but strange economic indicators, suggested by former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan. According to his theory, sales of men’s skivvies are generally steady, but when men are trying to cut back on their spending, they reliably cut back on new underwear purchases, notes The New York Times. According to Motley Fool, underwear sales were rising at Target Stores (Stock Quote: TGT) and Sears (Stock Quote: SHLD) last month. Photo Credit: Materials Aart
    Unclaimed Bodies
  • Unclaimed Bodies

    Among the more morbid indicators of our economic health is the number of unclaimed bodies left in morgues. Death is expensive, especially due to death taxes and the fact that funerals can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. When bodies aren’t claimed, cremations may be publicly funded in some cities, according to USA Today. In other cases, bodies may be donated to mortuary science schools or buried four bodies to a plot at a discount. Photo Credit: xJasonRogersx
    Lipstick
  • Lipstick

    Lipstick sales have tended to rise in a tough economy, according to Leonard Lauder, the chairman of makeup company Estée Lauder, The New York Times notes. In a depressed economic environment, people want to find a way to look and feel good about themselves, and lipstick is a fairly inexpensive luxury compared with things like clothing and shoes. Photo Credit: Idhren
    Power Toothbrushes
  • Power Toothbrushes

    Fancy toothbrush sales may actually rise in a down economy. That’s because thorough oral hygiene reduces the need for visits to the dentist, which could be expensive. Even toothbrush maker Oral-B has research on sales that support this theory, according to ABS-CBN News. Photo Credit: u07ch
    Hot Waitresses
  • Hot Waitresses

    Aside from waitresses at Hooters and strip clubs, the idea behind this index is “the hotter the waitress, the weaker the economy,” notes New York Magazine. That is, if you notice more hot hot waitresses at restaurants, chances are that these establishments have been under added pressure to draw in customers. There may be somewhat of an assumption here that in dire economic times attractive women - not necessarily the best waitresses - are more likely to increase foot traffic at a restaurant. “Rare indeed is the waitress who is so smoking that customers don’t mind when she drops a glass of Cabernet into their laps,” the magazine adds, “But obviously hotness can provide an edge.” Photo Credit: Loimere
    Bowling
  • Bowling

    The resurgence of bowling, which has brought on the building of upscale bowling alleys – the types with velvet ropes, dress codes and a generous selection of drinks - could also be an indicator of an economic upswing, suggests The New York Times. And these venues wouldn’t be built if spending on leisure activities wasn’t expected to rise. Photo Credit: bitmask
    Coffee
  • Coffee

    Cutting down on outings to Starbucks (Stock Quote: SBUX) and other coffee shops is one of the first budget-cutting moves Americans made at the start of the recession. And Starbucks itself, or its stock at least, has been suggested as an economic indicator on its own. Since it’s a fairly small luxury, and in some cases the only luxury people might allow themselves, coffee shop sales could be trending up soon. Photo Credit: journeyscoffee
    Pink Ties
  • Pink Ties

    Both men and women tend to wear bright colors when they’re in a good mood and wear more dull colors when they’re down, Forbes.com reports. And while stock prices might reflect how investors are reacting to the economy, for instance, neck tie colors might actually be a better predictor of what’s to come. Photo Credit: inkiboo
    Hair Dye
  • Hair Dye

    Getting your hair dyed at a salon can be pricey, and it may be one of the first luxuries to go when consumers’ wallets are getting slimmer. It’s a phenomenon known as the “Dye Jones Index,” according to TrendsSpotting, a marketing research blog. Instead, do-it-yourself dye jobs have gotten more popular. Top home hair dye maker L'Oréal sold 30% more dye in September compared with a year earlier, according to Chosun. Photo Credit: kio
    Skirt Length
  • Skirt Length

    Hemlines supposedly rise and fall with the economy. That means when consumer confidence is high, skirts are shorter, and when it’s low, skirts are longer. Longer skirts can always be altered instead of replaced after all, which would be more prudent in an economic downturn. But Glamour may have said it best: “Whether or not we're conscious of it, this theory proposes that we tend to dress more conservatively when we're feeling more financially vulnerable.” Photo Credit: crest_of_the_wave
    Denim Sales
  • Denim Sales

    Rising sales of jeans could indicate the start of an upward economic trend, notes Forbes, since they’re some of the more affordable and durable clothing items you can buy. And even though clothing sales overall are down, Forbes says denim sales are up, indicating that hope is on the horizon. Photo Credit: hillary h
    Sperm Sales?
  • Sperm Sales?

    As MainStreet reported early last year, costs to sperm bank consumers fell amid the recession. It could be that fewer couples have the disposable income they need to spend on sperm, but we imagine that ultimately, in a tough economy, raising a child may seem like more of a daunting venture. Photo Credit: biology flashcards
    Luggage Sales
  • Luggage Sales

    There’s no need for new luggage when vacationers become staycationers. So cutting or even eliminating travel budgets across the board means a drop in luggage sales, according to CFO Daily News. Last summer, luggage sales were down a full 35%, according to Merrill Lynch research, the magazine reported. Photo Credit: geishaboy500
    Golf Rounds
  • Golf Rounds

    Companies have cut down corporate golf outings and charity groups are organizing fewer rounds of golf as a part of budget cuts, according to Forbes. So if it’s too easy to get a tee time, the economy could be in better shape. Additionally, when a number of good golf tees are left at tee-up, that could mean the economy is improving, suggests one Money Magazine reader. Photo Credit: chispita666
    Restaurant Garbage Piles
  • Restaurant Garbage Piles

    The more garbage there is outside of a restaurant, the better their business is, and while consumers cut down on dining out in a recession, growing piles of restaurant garbage could indicate an economic upswing. "The garbage is not from what people have eaten, it's from what you use to make the food," one restaurant group told Forbes. Photo Credit: Adrian Miles
    Shopping Bags
  • Shopping Bags

    The more shopping bags people are holding when leaving the mall, the better our economy is doing. This could be considered a more focused measure of consumer confidence. According to market research firm NPD Group, the number of bags shoppers carried fell 12% between August 2008 and August 2009 compared with a drop of 20% from January 2008 to January 2009, Forbes reported. Photo Credit: Daquella Manerra
    Hotel Cancellations
  • Hotel Cancellations

    Room and corporate event reservation cancellations jumped by more than 50% during the recession, according to Forbes. Indicating improved expectations for the coming years, however, more event planners have recently been booking rooms and conference venues for 2010, 2011 and 2012, the magazine reports. Photo Credit: Pargon
    Cardboard Boxes
  • Cardboard Boxes

    The need for cardboard boxes rises when businesses are selling more and consumers are buying more, despite the efforts of environmentally conscience companies to cut down on packaging waste. “…Any uptick in product sales should be preceded by an increase in orders for cardboard boxes,” according to The Vancouver Sun. Additionally, the contents of recycling bins and higher demand on recycling companies may also indicate an improvement in the economy, according to Access North Georgia. Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan
    Flea Market Shoppers
  • Flea Market Shoppers

    Just as more shoppers have turned to discount stores over Macy’s (Stock Quote: M) for example, any place that may sell necessities; cheap, frivolous items and hidden gems may have gained in popularity as a result of the recession, so flea markets are all the rage. Dumpster diving and other ways to get free stuff has also become more common as a result of a sour economy. On Brian Lehrer’s Uncommon Economic Indicators project on WNYC.org, one longtime fan of a free flea market at a local church noted many new rummagers there. Photo Credit: IseFire
    Store Brands Sales
  • Store Brands Sales

    Buying generic, store-brand items has become trendy, and frugal shoppers have become less embarrassed about their penny-pinching ways since the start of the recession. Now, store brands can be as much as 40% cheaper than their name-brand counterparts, and just as good if not better. Photo Credit: trekkyandy
    Parking Availability
  • Parking Availability

    As consumers have spent less time going out to eat (or going out at all) to avoid spending money, the recession has meant ample room to park in some areas, notes one commenter on WNYC. Then again, parking lots at discount stores like Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT) might look entirely different than the valet lots at a fancy steakhouse. Photo Credit: greeneyedhedgehog
    Parking Prices
  • Parking Prices

    In the same vein, how much it costs to park can vary dramatically depending on the state of the economy. According to real estate industry group Colliers International, parking prices have actually been steady, “but when the economy recovers, rising parking rates are almost sure to return,” the group said in its 2009 Parking Rate Survey. Photo Credit: NickStarr
    Inexpensive Ingredients
  • Inexpensive Ingredients

    Recipes appearing in newspapers, magazines and Web sites may tend to stick with more inexpensive and seasonal ingredients during an economic downturn, notes one fan of uncommon economic indicators. Things like beans and canned or frozen foods are more likely to be purchased in a recession than imported and more expensive out-of-season fruits and vegetables. Photo Credit: LizMarie
    Presidential Approval Ratings
  • Presidential Approval Ratings

    A dire economy tends to mean great presidential approval ratings, according to Slate. Call it a simple quest for hope during hard times, but according to Ned Davis Research, when Gallup Poll approval ratings were charted against the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the trend was clear. Photo Credit: WhiteHouse.gov
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