Alternative indices: why dentists hate a downturn

Anna Tobin
Dentist showing patient a mold of teeth and smiling
Dentist showing patient a mold of teeth and smiling

Your dentist is no doubt delighted the economy is showing signs of recovery.

Why? Because you're far more likely to make an appointment and spend money on your teeth when things are looking up.

It's just one of many ways in which our spending habits will change.

Babies will soon have more to coo about for a start, as the so called Nappy Rash Index begins to fall. Basically, during better times, Mummy and Daddy spend more on nappies and, subsequently, change baby's nappy more, making him or her far less prone to nappy rash.

Older kids don't miss out either. They are likely to be schmoozed more by the hospitality industry. When they sit down to eat at a restaurant, for example, not only will they be presented with the children's menu, but also showered with colour pencils, colouring books and balloons, etc.

And, when they stay at a hotel they are more likely to receive special children's shampoo and slippers, for instance. This is because the owners are fighting to win a bigger slice of the growing market share and investing in novelties is part of their battle plan.

It's not such good news though for alligators and minks. When the economy is thriving sales of alligator skin handbags and fur coats rise. And sticking with the depressing fall out of a boom, divorces are likely to be up too as couples, who couldn't afford to split up during the bad times, can now afford to go their separate ways.

How things change in an economic downturn

Even in an economic downturn, we don't stop spending altogether. We just buy lots of little treats instead of lots of big splurges. "Our unconscious brand and purchase decisions can be an early indicator of a recession," explains David Jackson consumer strategist at international advertising agency FCB Inferno.

"Just one person's seemingly meaningless changes in purchase patterns when looked at nationally, replicated over and over again can be a great indicator of change. When the bad times hit 'guilty pleasure' products and services do well, we will pass off those expensive shoes, but a naughty glass of wine is a little treat for ourselves."

There are some weird economic indicators which show when things are starting to go badly wrong. Sales of bodice-ripping romance novels tend to rise, because people look for cheap forms of escapism.

And sticking with the underwear theme, men tend to buy fewer pants when they are tightening their belts. If they have no one to impress they'd rather spend what little money they have on clothes that people can see, rather than those that remain hidden.'

What Leonard Lauder of Estee Lauder termed the Lipstick Economic Index also still holds sway. Although women tend to splash out more on eye makeup than lipstick these days.

As we move further into the 21st century, economic indicators are likely to get more hi tech too, with App sales likely to be the next purchases to be put under the spotlight.

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