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Do You Buy Into the Lipstick Theory?


This morning's New York Times examines the long-held theory that when the economy tanks, lipstick sales go up. The idea is that since women don't have the money to splurge on, say, designer clothing, we're more likely to indulge in a lipstick as an affordable way to treat ourselves. After all, a $10 lipstick is far easier to buy than a $100 pair of jeans.

This theory has anecdotal support, but the numbers tell another story. Sales of lipstick aren't going up; they're actually down 13 percent in department stores compared to the same time last year. So perhaps the theory doesn't have much meat to it, or — this is the Chicken Little in me — maybe people just aren't shopping at all, and the economy is worse than we thought. (I should also point out that the current trend of shorter hairstyles does not bode well.) If only the dreamboat economist Paul Krugman would weigh in!

What about you? Do you think this theory holds up? Are you choosing lipstick instead of splurges lately, or are you not even splurging on lipstick these days?

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