Signs of Economic Recovery

April 25, 2012: Underwear

You might think that’s a rather personal question, but I’m trying to measure the economic recovery. Really, I am. A few weeks ago Time magazine reported that the sales trajectory of certain goods and services indicates either an economic upturn-or downturn. (You need to be a Time subscriber to read the whole article.)

Of course, it’s great that these new leading economic indicators are on the upswing. But we’re all about small business, so I don’t see the entrepreneurial opportunity in the fact that more people subscribed to cable and satellite TV in the last three months of 2011.

But there several trends here entrepreneurs can take advantage of. We’ve already reported that sales at beauty salons were up more than 5 percent in the past two years. But if you’re in (or aspire to be) the golf business, 21.4 percent more golf rounds were played in January 2012 than in January 2011. Of course our abnormally warm winter could account for that, but if more people are playing the game, they’re going to need clothes, accessories or even lessons.

Time said it was “good” that in December 30 percent more mobile homes shipped than in November. This could indicate a recovering housing market, which spells opportunity for those who sell homes, furniture, household goods and more.

Another good sign is that sales at sit-down restaurants rose nearly 9 percent in January 2012, compared to January 2011. But the “great” news, according to Time, is the fact that underwear sales in 2011 were up 6.6 percent from 2010. While that may seem like a relatively small percentage, the magazine says, “According to the Underwear Index-an economic principle championed by [former head of the Federal Reserve] Alan Greenspan”-sales increases in basic household staples like underwear likely means consumers have stopped their penny-pinching ways.