Mens underwear index?
It sounds like another durable goods index, but it gave the author, Ylan Q Mui a chance to use his name as an acronym (MUI) for an economic indicator. It is not everyday one gets that chance, so he should be congratulated for creativity. It has been awhile since I bought any, but I did not go as long between purchases as I did in buying trucks.
For one answer to the nation's most pressing economic question -- when will the recession end? -- just take a peek inside the American man's underwear drawer.
There may be some new pairs there, judging by recent reports from retailers and analysts, and that could mean better days ahead for everyone.
Here's the theory, briefly: Sales of men's underwear typically are stable because they rank as a necessity. But during times of severe financial strain, men will try to stretch the time between buying new pairs, causing underwear sales to dip.
"It's a prolonged purchase," said Marshal Cohen, senior analyst with the consumer research firm NPD Group. "It's like trying to drive your car an extra 10,000 miles."
The growth in sales of men's underwear began to slow last year as the recession took hold, according to Mintel, another research firm. This year, Mintel expects sales to fall 2.3 percent, the first drop since the company started collecting data in 2003.
But the men's underwear index -- or, conveniently, MUI -- may also have a silver lining. Mintel predicts that next year, men's underwear sales will fall by 0.5 percent, and as with many economic indicators, a slowing of a decline can be welcomed as a step in the right direction. Retailers are reporting encouraging signs in the men's underwear department. Sears spokeswoman Amy Dimond said stores are beginning to see more sales. At Target, spokeswoman Jana O'Leary said sales of men's underwear have been stronger over the past two months and multi-pair packs are moving.