Street signs of a slowdown

Street signs of a slowdown

The hemlines have not started falling as yet, but there are other street signs that point to a slowdown in the economy.

A popular folk theory in the West tells us that skirts get shorter in good times and then longer in bad times. A fall in hemlines is believed to be an indication of troubles in the economy.

India, as far as we know, does not have a sartorial theory of business cycles to match the hemline theory. But there are other signs that tell us that the sunny optimism of the boom years has been replaced with circumspection, if not downright despondency. Even as economists wrestle with impressive data on how the economy will behave in the coming quarters, we decided to take our readers on a quick tour of a few commonplace indicators of the downturn.

Mint reported on Tuesday that pubs in urban hot spots such as Bangalore have seen a drop in revelry since August. Liquor sales continue to grow but people seem to now prefer to knock down a couple of drinks at home rather than at public watering holes. Alcohol helps drive away worries—believe us Mr Ramadoss, it is true—whether it is quaffed cheap in front of the TV at home or at an expensive pub or bar.

Then look at the empty hoardings that line our city streets. Advertising budgets are the first to get it in the neck when the cost-cutters take charge. We see an increasing incidence of empty hoardings these days. The thing to watch out for is which industries continue to spend on advertising. It could tell us a lot on how consumers are spending. And then there are also the aesthetic advantages of clutter-free urban skylines.

The mood in cubicle land has changed as well. The idea that every employee deserves a stiff salary hike once a year has been washed away with the tide. Employee turnover in sectors such as software and outsourcing, which were job-hopping havens, has reduced. There are reports that investment bankers are not taking their mandatory Christmas breaks this year: pink slips rather than bonus cheques are more likely to be distributed this December. Sunning your body at a Bali beach in such times is a bad idea.

So, don’t wait for those economists to tell you what your eyes can see.

What signs of a slowdown do you see? Tell us at