Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Christmas sales as an economic indicator

One of the frustrating things about the so-called end of the Great Recession is the fact that the people who are recovering are not even remotely in my neighborhood. As most of my friends and regular readers know, I am a firm believer in developing one's own set of economic indicators---that way you don't have to rely on the boiled numbers that the government issues.

Here is a good indicator of the health of the economy: When did Christmas displays and music hit the stores? When did the merchants start slashing prices?

The earlier you see and hear Xmas stuff, the worst retailers believe the holiday shopping season is going to be. Of course, I believe that the stock holders are worried about their stock prices and dividends---and not in the least concerned about their employees---which means that even if consumers pony up money (from under what barrel I have no idea) and go hog-wild this shopping season, I am willing to bet that the money is going to stay in the pockets of the rich stockholders and not flow back to the rest of the economy.

The earlier you see price cutting (especially the fire sale level), the worst the holiday shopping is based on store reciepts. The fire sale level of prices indicate that a store is just trying to break even for the season, and that layoffs of regular employees is going to accompany the letting go of the seasonal help.

And this year is alarming on a couple of levels already. I saw Christmas stuff out before October 1st, and HR departments are actually hiring less seasonal help than normal.

Is it wrong to think that perhaps certain retail chains stockholders deserve a lump of coal for Christmas? Probably. We all know that only rich people can create jobs for the poor. *frowns*

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