Unusual Economic Indicators

February 27, 2012 James Heinsman Economic Barometer

Easily overlooked by economic experts, the following indicators may be a truer indication of how the economy is really doing.

Victory Gardens

About a year ago with the warm of air spring came talk of planting household gardens as a way for families to save money. The National Gardening Association reports that there are 43 million gardeners in the US growing things to eat, and more than half of them say they are doing it to save money.

Since tomatoes are the usual first-time gardeners’ vegetable of choice, it makes sense to see how tomato seed sales went last year. A spokeswoman for Burpee & Co indeed explained that "Burpee's sales for seed starting kits in January this year were up 10% from January last year, suggesting an increase in first-time vegetable garden customers." She adds, "Sales for vegetable seeds and transplants (the small vegetable plant seedlings) are up 30 percent this year over last year's increase."

So what does it indicate about the economy if more people are planting gardens? It must mean the economy is going up, since garden supplies are not cheap. Any money saved on buying tomatoes in the grocery store is nullified by the cost of starting a garden. However, the added bonus of the great taste of homegrown tomatoes makes the endeavor a labor of love, if not money.

Underneath it All

Sales seem to be down in the men’s underwear department, although the Jockey brand was born in the deepest of darkest depressions in 1934. When the product first went on sale in Marshall Fields in Chicago the entire stock of 50 dozen shorts were sold out by noon, despite the harsh economic conditions and a competing blizzard.

The Washington Post reported on the Men’s Underwear Index (MUI) and found that “though sales are down, they are bottoming out. If so, there's nowhere to go but up.”

Spam It

You know Spam is a food, right? Well, sales of this specialty canned meat item are up by as much as 40%. But don’t let that number fool you. Sales increases are only among 1.4% of the population. Research also shows that Americans go out to eat less than before, but the increase in meals taken at home has not increased proportionately, with an only an additional 4-5 meals a month more. What might be happening are great deals in restaurants are getting people in, but a $5 sandwich might be filling in for two meals.

According to one analyst, “There is no recession in food, only winners and losers. Foods labeled as “good for you” were selling more each year except for last year. Now we are seeing cheap and easy meals such as macaroni and cheese. Marketing is the driver."

Burpee seeds, Economy, Jockey Shorts, Spam,

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