Tags: underwear | sock | sales | economy

Do Rising Men’s Underwear and Sock Sales Signal a Strengthening Economy?

Monday, 22 Apr 2013 07:50 AM

By Dan Weil

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If women’s hemlines are an indicator of stock prices, perhaps men’s underwear and sock sales have predictive power for the economy also.

While U.S. men’s apparel sales rose just 1 percent last year overall, underwear sales surged 13 percent and socks 12 percent, according to a study by market researcher NPD Group, MarketWatch reports.

“Men are updating the basics of their wardrobe,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD.

Editor's Note:
Billionaires Dump Stocks. Prepare for the Unthinkable.

Perhaps that bodes well for overall consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, MarketWatch speculates. Consumer purchases gained 0.7 percent in February, the biggest gain in five months.

But retail sales dropped 0.4 percent in March, the biggest decline in nine months.

And how do the experts see it?

“Some men’s underwear may be so worn out that they have no choice but to replace it — or to go commando,” Vicki Morwitz, a professor of marketing at New York University, tells MarketWatch.

But the economy may play a role, she says. “For men who don’t care so much about underwear, during lean times, they probably made do with what they had.”

“Post-recession, we are told the economy is improving and that people are spending again,” consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier says. “The first to go — items like men’s underwear — is often the first back on the shopping list.”

As for the drop in March retail sales, “It’s not as if things are falling apart, they’re just softening relative to a strong start to the quarter,” Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase, tells Bloomberg.

“The first quarter still looks better than had been expected a few months ago, particularly in the face of the headwinds.”

Whatever the role of underwear, 49 economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal April 5-9 forecast that GDP grew 3.1 percent in the first quarter. But they predict it will decelerate to 1.8 percent growth this quarter. The economy expanded 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

Editor's Note: Billionaires Dump Stocks. Prepare for the Unthinkable.

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