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New economic indicator: Ugly High Heels and Platform Shoe Index

By Dian Vujovich

I’m adding a brand new, made-it-up-all-myself market indicator to the list of goofy ways that we use to predict the market’s unpredictable future— like the sales of lipstick and men’s’ underwear. Mine, however, is based on the height of women’s heels.

Okay, first a disclaimer: My Ugly High Heel and Platform Shoe (UHHPS) market indicator is based upon absolutely no economic data at all. But, that doesn’t mean there is no truth in it. After all, we all know economic indicators don’t always hold water. They are kind of like weather reports: We listen to them but don’t always count on their accuracy.

That said, the Ugly High Heel and Platform Shoe market indicator basically goes like this: The higher the heel—and platform– on ladies shoes, the higher the buzz hope. Meaning that when shoes have hugely high heels and platform heights it’s an indication of society’s need for extra-ordinarily high expectations, dreams and desires to help everyone through the troubled times. Dreams, btw, that may include everything from the hope that stock market prices soar upwards to those such as unrealistically high personal life dreams. Like, if I get high enough my billon-dollar prince will notice me and whisk me away in his Bugatti Veyron Super Sports car (price tag around $2.4 million). Not gonna happen.

According to my UHHPS index, when heel heights get to 6 and 7 inches as they have, and platforms over an inch in height, it’s a sign that an economic bubble of one sort or another can’t be too far off. When they drop to a typically normal range—heels in the neighborhood of 2 to 3 inches in height and platforms around one-half an inch in height, we’re all a bit more balanced.

Again, no research backing this—only my personal point of view. But, right before filing this blog I ran across another similarly-minded thinker. In a story published in November 2011 in Advertising Age titled, “At Last a Good Economic Indicator: Heel Heights Poised for Fall,” research showed that the higher the stiletto, the more severe the downfall.

According to Trevor Davis, a consumer-products expert with IBM Global Business Services, “Consumers look to compensate for dismal times with more flamboyant fashions.” He said that while flats and lower heels were the rage during the 1920s, high heels were a big part of the 1930 recession days and platform heels big during the 1973 oil crisis recession.

Although time will tell if there is any merit to the UHHPS index, I’m hoping it will be as accurate as the Men’s Underwear Index and not like the Lipstick Index.

The Lipstick Index basically says that when finances get tight, folks will buy fewer luxury items and go for smaller ones—like lipsticks. Unfortunately, lipstick sales were down in 2010 and last year other types of cosmetics gained in strength, according to that story.

Guy’s underwear, on the other hand, seems to reveal more about the economy. At one point even Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan bought into it—the underwear theory–that is.

He apparently noticed that when men’s underwear sales were falling it was an indication of an economic downturn. The good news today is that last year, 2011; Associated Press reported that men’s undergarment sales were up over 7 percent.

Again, time will tell if women’s heel heights have anything to do with our economic times. But even if they don’t one thing is certain, the higher the heel the harder the fall.

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