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Mens' Underwear Sales Suggest A Turn In The Economy

Updated on June 7, 2009

Are we getting desperate for any sign of economic recovery, or what? The latest ‘sign’ that a recovery may be “underway” is “underwear”. Men’s underwear sales, to be exact. And you’ll never guess who supposedly uses this as a barometer of how the economy is doing. Are you ready for this???... Alan Greenspan!

Supposedly, Greenspan was known to say that in an economic downturn, one of the first things that men stop buying is new underwear. I guess the thinking is that since no one really sees it, it’s not as important to keep it ‘up to date’ and is purchase area that is easy to cut back on. The continuation of that reasoning is that once the economy does start to do better, at least in the mass consciousness of men, then boxer and brief sales will start to increase. Sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it?

Check out these numbers; in the 12 months ending in January ’09, there had been a 12% decline in men’s underwear sales as opposed to the more normal growth rate of 2% to 3% (these numbers come from NPD, a group that tracks trends in clothing). In February and March of this year, sales of underwear leveled off from their previous declining trend.

Have we hit the bottom? Is the economy finally starting to turn around? Is the mortgage crisis behind us?

If you really want to be the first to know when we can start putting this all behind us, maybe you should follow old Alan Greenspan’s lead and keep your eye on sales of what’s “on our behinds”.


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