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.
Retailers slash prices in Christmas build-up BBC News, Tim Muffett (25/11/11)
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)
Earnings tables: Labour Market Statistics ONS (November 2011)
Personal Income and Wealth ONS
Price Indices and Inflation ONS
Personal Inflation Calculator (PIC) ONS
- Identify the determinants of demand for winter clothing.
- 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?
- What factors should a retailer take into account when deciding whether to make pre-Christmas discounts?
- 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?
- What longer-term strategies could retailers adopt if they predict tough trading conditions over the next two or three years?
Whether or not you admit it, most people are aware of what’s happening in the X factor. With massive viewing figures, the X Factor remains one the most highly viewed entertainment programmes, so it’s hardly surprising that demand for advertising slots is so high especially when people are waiting for news about the contestants. The X Factor pulls in £8000 per second from TV adverts and it is estimated that the charge for a 30 second advertising slot is a staggering £190,000, expected to rise to £250,000 for the live final. It looks like the recession has had little impact on those wanting to sponsor the X Factor.
Nevertheless, there has been some controversy this week. Every Monday morning we see stories about the contestants and this week was no exception. But, it wasn’t so much about the contestants this week, but rather it concerned the voting. Following the episodes over the weekend of 7th and 8th November 2009, both the ITV and Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, received thousands of complaints as Simon Cowell gave his support to ‘Jedward’ over Lucie Jones, even though in earlier episodes, he had said he would ‘leave the country if they won’.
However, Ofcom has said that the X Factor won’t be investigated, as the regulator only investigates voting irregularities and the treatment of contestants and not the outcome of the programme. Meanwhile, speculation is rife that Simon Cowell either wants to keep Jedward on the show, because of their viewer ratings, or that by voting Lucie off, the public will rebel and vote Jedward off this week and Simon will avoid looking like the bad guy.
Who knew that the world of entertainment could be analysed using economics!!
Ofcom won’t investigate X Factor ITN (11/11/09)
750 complain to Ofcom over Lucie’s X Factor exit Wales Online (12/11/09)
£8k a second bonanza for X Factor ads as ITV chiefs cash in on Jedward mania Mail Online (11/11/09)
Watchdog rules out X Factor probe BBC News (10/11/09)
Thousands complain to ITV and Ofcom over X Factor ATV Network News, Doug Lambert (10/11/09)
X Factor: Simon Cowell is an evil genius and we love him Telegraph, Liz Hunt (11/11/09)
Simon Cowell’s evil genius rules The X Factor Guardian, Marina Hyde (13/11/09)
Resistance is futile in the face of this master of psychology Independent, Matthew Norman (12/11/09)
Jedward: X Factor twins John and Edward help ITV rake in advertising Telegraph (11/11/09)
The X Factor becomes the ‘British Superbowl’ as advertising fees soar Tines Online, Dan Sabbagh (11/11/09)
The Ofcom site can be found at:
Ofcom (Home Page)
- What is the purpose of regulation? What are the advantages and disadvantages of legal restrictions?
- What is the role of Ofcom? How does it regulate telecommunications and what other regulators are there?
- Why is the price for an advertising slot during the X Factor so expensive? What does this tell us about price elasticity and income elasticity of demand?
- Ofcom is not going to investigate X Factor. What are the main reasons behind this decision? Do you think this was the right decision?
- If a judge’s decision can increase advertising revenue, then from a commercial point of view does that make it the ‘right’ decision?
Gold prices have been soaring in recent months. In fact, such is the demand for the precious metal that Harrods has just started selling gold bars. “The Knightsbridge department store yesterday began selling bars of pure Swiss gold bullion as part of a range that is being displayed in a miniature vault on the lower ground floor” (see eighth link below).
In November 2008, gold was trading at around $750 per ounce; by October 2009, the price had reached $1080 per ounce. Why has this happened? Will the trend continue? What does it signify about the world economy – both its current and likely future state? The following articles look at the causes and effects of this new ‘golden age’.
Gold prices continue to hit new highs Guardian (7/10/09)
Gold price hits fresh high Guardian (14/10/09)
Gold’s bull run set to roar ahead This is Money (17/10/09)
Why the price of gold is rising BBC News (13/10/09)
Gold price ‘set to double in four years’ (includes video) Telegraph (10/10/09)
Gold at $1,500? Don’t hold your breath Telegraph (10/10/09)
Bullion bulls The Economist (8/10/09)
Harrods put Swiss gold bars up for sale in a miniature vault Times Online (16/10/09)
Gold Eases from New High as “Less Bad” Data Drives Up Equities, Oil & Wall Street Bonuses BullionVault (14/10/09)
Gold Just Broke Its Neck, Targets $5,250? The market Oracle (14/10/09)
- Use a demand and supply diagram to illustrate the change in the price of gold between November 2008 and October 2009. Does the explanation lie largely of the demand or the supply side? Use the concepts of price elasticity of demand and supply to explain the size of the price change for any given shift in demand or supply.
- How is the price of gold related to the strength of the US dollar?
- Explain whether gold is a commodity or a currency (or both).
- What is meant by the ‘head and shoulders pattern’ in the price of gold? Is the use of ‘patterns’ a good way of predicting future prices? Give reasons why it may or may not be.
In an attempt to revive the fortunes of the French restaurant industry, where demand has been flagging during the recession, the French government slashed VAT on restaurant meals from the standard 19.6 per cent to 5.5 per cent from 1 July 2009. But how much of the tax cut will be passed on to customers; will there be an equal percentage price cut for all items on any particular restaurant’s menu; what will be the impact on consumer demand; and what will be the impact on the government’s tax revenue? The following articles look at the issues.
VAT cut paves way for cheaper restaurant bills France 24 (1/7/09)
Restaurants’ VAT cut from today The Connexion (1/7/09)
French diners feast on benefits after generous cut in restaurant tax Guardian (1/7/09)
France Whacks Food Tax The Wall Street Journal (2/7/09)
- Using a demand and supply diagram, demonstrate the effect of a VAT cut on the price of a particular item on a menu.
- Examine the factors that will determine (a) the average percentage price cut made by a particular restaurant and (b) the percentage price cut on a particular item on the menu.
- “One third of the VAT cut is supposed to help pay for price cuts with another third going to increase staffing. The final third should go to improving restaurant facilities.” Consider the likelihood of this occurring.
- “The measure will cost the French state 2.38 billion euros a year.” How, do you think, this figure was arrived at and how accurate is the figure likely to be? Are there any circumstance under which the tax cut could increase tax revenues?
The recession of the past few months has taken its toll on organic farmers. Until recently, the industry was booming as consumers switched to products perceived as greener, healthier and more ethically produced. Now, as many consumers are feeling the pinch, they are switching to cheaper foodstuffs. The resulting decline in demand for organic food has turned profit into loss for many organic farmers. According to the first of the linked articles below, at least two organic farmers are leaving the movement each week.
But what will happen as the economy recovers and people start turning back to organic products? Given that it takes some two years to convert to organic standards, there could be supply shortages next year.
As UK shoppers tighten their belts, organic farmers feel the squeeze Guardian (11/4/09)
United Kingdom-Organic slowdown Farming UK (12/4/09)
Can the organics survive the current economy? Limerick Post (10/4/09)
- How close to perfect competition is the market for organic foods?
- What determines whether an organic farmer should continue in the market even though a loss is being made?
- What can you conclude about the income and price elasticities of demand for organic produce and the cross-price elasticity of demand for organic food with eating out?
- What is likely to happen to the market for organic food over the next two years?