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Media How To Spot And Survive A Recession

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Telegraph Article.

Cut costs during the recession: dress down, dine in, have a cold shower, it's crunch time

Last Updated: 12:02am BST 09/07/2008

Never mind the GDP, proof that the economy's in trouble lies closer to home, in how we travel, what we wear and how we shop. Jessica Fellowes reports

# Recession: Transport

# Recession: Style

# Recession: Taste

While economists look to falling house prices, inverted yield curves and soaring interest rates, there are other, more telling signs of a recession ahead. If you want to know whether we're about to suffer a long-term downturn, the signs are in the clothes we wear, the food we eat and even our activities behind closed doors.

First, take a quick look at what you're wearing today. Shades of muted brown or grey, perhaps? A sober tie or low-heeled shoes? Must be a recession.

Apparently, we're no longer buying bold colours: at Asda, sales of coloured tights are down by 52 per cent and black tights are up 35 per cent compared with last year. Worse, men are buying more white shirts than ever (up 29 per cent). The belts we're tightening must be standard issue.

Unless we're making our own, of course. It's no longer just students and dressmakers, even movie stars are reacting to the credit crunch with a needle and thread. This week Dame Helen Mirren admitted she often prefers second-hand shops to the designer outfits she is offered and that she can still remember "how to work a sleeve".

The online clothes shop Gossypium has been running for 10 years, but three weeks ago it launched stitch-your-own Fairtrade dress kits, after customers reported that they wanted to spend less but still look stylish.


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They have been a huge success - the Stone dress kit, £19.95, is the bestseller - and more lines are planned. Even Clothkits, last seen around the time of the 1974 recession, have been making a comeback as the broke-but-chic seek new ways to enhance their wardrobe.

The company was relaunched this year by Kay Mawer, who says the kits have seen "a phenomenal response". The bestseller is a hand-printed screen skirt by artist Rob Ryan - for £46 you get the fabric, lining, needle and thread, zips and the all-important instructions. Not as cheap as Primark but uniquely yours. In what other ways does our behaviour change when the GDP is stalling?

Given that we're not looking too sexy, it's no surprise that we're also resisting our partner's charms. Financial worries tend to result in a lower sex drive, and the only time between 1901 and 1999 when the population fell was in 1976, after the recession of 1974 and its aftermath.

We get married less, too, and divorce is more likely, if people can afford it - mortgage problems are forcing the less wealthy to stay together.

For the rich it is a different story, says Sandra Davis, head of family law at Mishcon de Reya. "We have seen an increase in divorce-related inquiries recently and I have no doubt that this is connected to the financial climate. High earners are asking themselves whether they can afford to remain married and, if not, whether they can afford to get divorced.

At the same time, some wives are worrying about the purse strings being tightened and want to know if they would be better off seeking their share now, before the economic situation worsens. When times are good, adultery is the main cause of marriage breakdown. When times are bad, arguments over money sour relationships."

There is an old mantra that one sure sign of a downturn is an increase in sales of supermarket champagne. Is it true? Yes, very. Waitrose has seen an increase of 10 per cent in champagne sales (with cheaper sparklers, such as prosecco sold at £6.99 up by 56 per cent). Its "restaurant-quality" ready-meals have gone up by 46 per cent. According to Tesco, 60 per cent of us are now cutting back on eating out.

In fact, a new dining trend is emerging in the shape of Stags - Stay At Home Gourmets. Four in 10 Brits claim to prefer recreating posh nosh at home, and 63 per cent of them say their home cooking is better. Best Stag dishes are duck, sea bass, fillet steak, crème brûlée and even lobster.

Another throwback enjoying a return to favour is home brewing. Last month, the Home Brew Shop in Farnborough reported its busiest week in 39 years of trading. "We've always noticed that when things are a bit tight our sales go up," says owner Diane Green.

Consumer think tank Mintel reports three significant changes in spending habits. Holidays (delayed by one in five), DIY (put off - with a grateful sigh - by 16 per cent of us) and savings (staying static for 11 per cent) are the first items to suffer when bank statements start looking peaky.

If we have any pennies left over, it seems they're going on aloe vera gels and healing crystals. Mintel says: "The most impressive growth in the over-the-counter pharmaceutical market was in the sales of alternative medicines and self-diagnostics; in personal care, it was cosmetics and skin and body care.

In adornment [which includes clothing, footwear and jewellery] it was precious jewellery and women's accessories, such as aromatherapy pendants." In other words, we're cheering ourselves up after a cancelled holiday or loft conversion with new lipstick and perfume.

Mind you, if you have a good job, you probably wouldn't dare to take any time off anyway. A survey this week found that one in four executives won't use up their full entitlement in case they lose their jobs.

The Chartered Management Institute blames "holiday paranoia" among managers, who fear that "out of sight is out of mind", with 37 per cent trying to exchange holiday time for cash.

With one eye on their ready cash, credit-crunchers seek out anything that's free. An internet swap-shop, Freecycle (where members advertise items they want to get rid of - free), has had moderate success. But this year its membership has doubled to 1.2 million.

Those who would have sneered at a second-hand fridge only last year are now delighted to collect one in exchange for an old child's bicycle.

A cashless society never seemed so appealing.

Is that the sound of a penny finally beginning to drop in the VI UK media :unsure:

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  • 399 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

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