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Archive for November, 2011


Well, I have to admit. Using the retail sales of high heeled shoes to indicate growth or a downturn in the economy is bit out there. But after seeing IBM in the news this week, I decided to look into this a bit further.

And they are right; the height of high heels sold does provide an indicator of the current economic situation. In an economic downturn, data shows that the height of high heels goes up – evidently, women buy higher heels in an attempt to escape the reality of tough economic times. Surely, feeling better about yourself, feeling prettier, perhaps a bit of personal indulgence, does help one escape the feeling of being controlled (can’t escape a bad job), beaten down (unemployed), and even trodden upon financially (foreclosed).

I have spoken about retail analytics a number of times in recent months, and I have been using a graph to open my presentation that shows the rise and dramatic fall of U.S.consumer spending as a wake up call to those analytically inclined. Consumer spending is such a key part of the U.S.economy and the retail industry. And as I wrote about in one of my earliest blog posts, in good economic times, everyone makes money. But in these tough economic times with consumer spending at a similar level to 1997 (mind you, after a fairly significant increase from its recent low), it takes much more than luck to survive let alone prosper. It takes an “analytics-driven” attitude to survive and thrive.

“This time…something different is happening – perhaps a mood of long term austerity is evolving among consumers sparking a desire to reduce ostentation in everyday settings.”

So what will happen later this week on “Black Friday?” Will consumer spending be strong – hitting the $20 Billion mark on Black Friday as analysts at MasterCard predict, or will it limp along like a wounded duck? Is there enough pent-up demand after consumers have cut back so much in recent months, or is there a bright future on the horizon for retailers? Will the sales, promotions and advertising make a difference? Will hot ticket items like the new Kindle Fire be strong performers? What will happen to retailers that don’t sell hot ticket items?

There are a lot of questions here…. One thing, however, is certain. Many retailers that rely on gut feel may not make it. But those that mined their data, that used predictive analytics, and that extended themselves to analyze the “big data” of social media, well…they may hit the proverbial nail on the head.

Let’s see what shakes in the upcoming days. Stay tuned for more….

http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/35985.wss

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