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Posts Tagged ‘consumer demand’

Future for the global economy

There is a lot of pessimism around about the state of the global economy and the prospects for more sustained growth. Stock markets have been turbulent; oil and other commodity prices have fallen; inflation has been below central bank targets in most countries; and growth has declined in many countries, most worryingly in China.

The latest worry, expressed by finance ministers at the G20 conference in Shanghai, is that UK exit from the EU could have a negative impact on economic growth, not just for the UK, but for the global economy generally.

But is this pessimism justified? In an interesting article in the Independent, Hamish McRae argues that there are five signs that the world economy is not doomed yet! These are:

There are more monetary and fiscal measures that can still be taken to boost aggregate demand.
Despite some slowing of economic growth, there is no sign of a global recession in the offing.
US and UK growth are relatively buoyant, with consumer demand ‘driving the economy forward’.
Deflation worries are too great, especially when lower prices are caused by lower commodity prices. These lower costs should act to stimulate demand as consumers have more real purchasing power.
Inflation may start to edge upwards over the coming months and this will help to increase confidence as it will be taken as a sign that demand is recovering.

So, according to McRae, there are five things we should look for to check on whether the global economy is recovering. He itemises these at the end of the article. But are these the only things we should look for?

Five signs that the world economy is not doomed yet Independent, Hamish McRae (27/2/15)

Questions

  1. What reasons are there to think that the world will grow more strongly in 2016 than in 2015?
  2. What reasons are there to think that the world will grow less strongly in 2016 than in 2015?
  3. Distinguish between leading and lagging indicators of economic growth.
  4. Do you agree with McRae’s choice of five indicators of whether the world economy is likely to grow more strongly?
  5. What indicators would you add to his list?
  6. Give some examples of ‘economic shocks’ that could upset predictions of economic growth rates. Explain their effect.
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Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Peacocks

It’s not the first retailer to go into administration and it won’t be the last, but the well-known high street retailer Peacocks will continue to trade for the foreseeable future thanks to Edinburgh Woolen Mill.

The administrators were called in at the beginning of 2012, as Peacocks total debt reach £750 million and it was unable to restructure £240 million of this debt. Edinburgh Woollen Mill has bought the company out of administration, protecting 6000 jobs in the UK. However, at the same time more than 3000 workers will be made redundant, as 224 stores cease trading.

Throughout the recession, retailers across the UK have been struggling, as household incomes have remained low, causing consumer spending to fall. One of the administrators from KMPG, commented that:

‘This (the low consumer demand), combined with a surplus of stores and unsustainable capital structure, led to the business becoming financially unviable.’

The coming months will be crucial in determining whether more jobs are lost and if there are any further store closures. Much hinges on the ability of Edinburgh Woollen Mill to stabilize the financial performance of Peacocks and stimulate renewed customer demand. The following articles consider this take-over.

Peacocks closes 19 Ulster stores with 263 job losses Belfast Telegraph (23/2/12)
Peacocks Takeover: Edinburgh Woollen Mill buy retailer but 3,100 jobs lost BBC News (including video) (22/2/12)
Peacocks piqued by PIKs Guardian, Nils Pratley (22/2/12)
Edinburgh Woollen Mill buys Peacocks Independent, James Thompson (23/2/12)
Peacocks sold to Edinburgh Woollen Mill – KPMG The Wall Street Journal, Jessica Hodgson (23/2/12)

Questions

  1. Why has consumer demand in the retails sector fallen during the recession?
  2. What type of take-over would you classify this as?
  3. Who are Peacocks’ main competitors? In which market structure would you place the retail sector? Explain your answer.
  4. The Guardian article refers to the Management-buy-out of Peacocks in 2005. What is a management-buy-out? What were the problems associated with it?
  5. What are the problems that have been identified as causing Peacocks to go into administration?
  6. To what extent do you think the Management-buy-out of 2005 is the main reason why Peacocks has fallen into administration?
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Dreaming of a white Christmas

This autumn has been one of the mildest on record. Whilst this may be very nice for most of us, certain industries have been suffering. For example, gas and electricity consumption is down as people delay turning on their heating. One sector particularly badly hit has been clothing. Sales of winter clothes are substantially down and many retailers are longing for colder weather to boost their sales.

Of course, this is not helped by consumer incomes. With inflation at around 5% and average (pre-tax) weekly earnings currently rising by less than 2%, real incomes are falling. In fact over the year, even nominal disposable incomes are down 2.1%, given the rise in national insurance and income tax. And the problem of falling incomes is compounded by worries over the future state of the economy – whether it will go back into recession, with further falls in real income and rises in unemployment.

It’s no wonder that retailers are longing for some cold weather and for their customers to return from the seaside or their garden barbecues to the shopping malls. Look out for the ‘sales’ signs: they’re beginning to spring up as desperate retailers seek to attract wary customers.

Webcast
Retailers slash prices in Christmas build-up BBC News, Tim Muffett (25/11/11)

Articles
Winter woes: warm weather means shoppers aren’t buying as much Guardian, Zoe Wood (21/11/11)
Shoppers urged to be savvy as Christmas sales last for weeks The Telegraph, Victoria Ward (21/11/11)

Data
Earnings tables: Labour Market Statistics ONS (November 2011)
Personal Income and Wealth ONS
Price Indices and Inflation ONS
Personal Inflation Calculator (PIC) ONS

Questions

  1. Identify the determinants of demand for winter clothing.
  2. How responsive is demand likely to be to these determinants (a) over a period of a few weeks; (b) over a period of a few months?
  3. What factors should a retailer take into account when deciding whether to make pre-Christmas discounts?
  4. Assume that you are employed but are afraid of losing your job in a few months’ time. How would this affect your consumption of (a) seasonal goods; (b) durable goods; (c) day-to-day goods?
  5. What longer-term strategies could retailers adopt if they predict tough trading conditions over the next two or three years?
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Tackling scarcity: can we have too much choice?

If we are faced with simple and limited choices, we may make careful decisions based on a number of criteria: in other words, we will identify various characterisitics we are looking for and see how well the various alternative products or activities meet our criteria. When we have lots of choice, however, we may be less careful or get confused.

In this Guardian podcast, the panelists discuss complex choices between many products and/or characteristics. Are people being ‘rational’ when making such choices? Is being less careful simply a rational use of scarce time? Do people really want lots of choice or would they prefer more limited choice? Can experiments where people are given choices help us to understand how people choose and how much choice businesses or government should give people? Then there is the question of producers/suppliers of products. Does choice promote competition and product development and is there an optimum amount of choice to achieve this?

The Business: Choice Guardian Podcasts, Sheena Iyengar, Julian Glover and Andrew Lilico in conversation with Aditya Chakrabortty (1/9/10)

Questions

  1. Are people ‘rational’ when they make choices? For what reasons may they not be rational?
  2. Can you make rational choices if your information is imperfect?
  3. Is there an optimum amount of choice and how would you set about establishing that optimum?
  4. How useful are experiments in understanding the process of choice? What are the weaknesses of such experiments?
  5. Should people be limited in the amount of choice they are given over medical treatment and schools?
  6. What are the advantages to other people of giving people more choice?
  7. How much does culture influence our attitudes towards choice?
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Payback time

Latest figures from the Bank of England show that the stock of personal debt has fallen for the first time since the Bank began recording the figures in 1993 (search for table LPMVTUV in the Bank of England’s Statistical Interactive Database). So why are people on average paying back more than they are borrowing and what will be the implications for the economy? The following articles look at the issues.

Record decline in UK lending threatens recovery Financial Times (1/9/09)
Britons’ mortgage repayments outstrip new loans Times Online (1/9/09)
Personal debt dips for first time BBC News (1/9/09)
Mortgage approvals rise again but repayments outstrip lending Guardian (1/9/09)
Exceptional times BBC, Stephanomics (2/9/09)
Personal debt falls BBC Today Programme (2/9/09)
UK personal debt levels fall (video) BBC News (2/9/09

For the July data from the Bank of England see:
Lending to Individuals: July 2009
and for later periods, if you access this news item after September 2009, see:
Lending to Individuals: latest

Questions

  1. What is the effect on aggregate demand of a net repayment of debt by individuals? What other information would you need to have in order to calculate whether aggregate demand is rising or falling?
  2. Use the Excel data from the Bank of England’s Statistical Interactive Database (linked above in the introduction to this news item) to trace the credit crunch.
  3. For what reasons have individuals switched from net accumulation of debt to net repayment of debt? Does this suggest that the fall in interest rates over the past 12 months has had a perverse effect?
  4. What factors have been determining personal saving and borrowing since the start of the credit crunch?
  5. What are the short-term and long-term implications of a reduction in personal debt?
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