In December I raised the question: Can watching the market for sex toys predict a recession? In that post I suggested the increased demand for lubricants in 2009 might reflect the need for a cheap means to feel good in hard economic times and that, if this is the case, then perhaps lubricant sales figures could be used as a leading indicator of recessions. I said that that time that the real test of the validity of a lubricant leading indicator would be to observe if sales went limp in the recovery.
Sadly, I have no lubricant sales figures to report for you (yet) but I couldn’t resist commenting on a press release from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons announcing that, among other things, the number of boob jobs were up in 2010.
Sure, I will buy their claim that this indicates that consumer confidence is on the rise and that some of this increase is the result of pent up demand from the two preceding years of economic turmoil.
There is an alternative explanation though. It is possible that a portion of the aging workforce took a long sad look at the state of their 401ks and decided that they had a few more years left to spend in what has become, and will no doubt continue to be, a very competitive labor market. And so they have invested in taking up the slack, so to speak, in order to maintain their position in that market.
I discovered this week that my own family doctor is now offering a variety of beauty treatments on the side, including botox and dermal fillers (up 12% last year). The fact that I can now get these treatments along with my flu shot reminds me that we only assume that the movement in the market represents an increase demand. Supply plays a role too of course and might very well have contributed to increase in the number of procedures performed last year.