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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Frugal Corner: Jeans sales hint at recovery

Americans cut back on their clothing spending across the board in 2008.

All, that is, except for blue jeans. And spendy, high-end blue jeans in particular were selling at a pace ahead of past years.

According the NPD Group Inc., which tracks consumer spending, the total dollar volume of sales for blue jeans rose 2.3 percent during the three months ending in February. Sales of all apparel declined by more than 6 percent in the same period.

And expensive jeans did even better. Sales of jeans priced at $100 or more rose 17 percent during 2008.

We wonder if those numbers would hold true here in the Inland Northwest, where – presumably – more of us might look askance at shelling out $100 for jeans.

Whatever the case, Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of NPD, told MarketWatch that the strength in the blue-jean market could be one of the early signs that the economy is turning around.

“That’s usually the telltale sign that the consumer is getting ready to start shopping again,” Cohen said. “Denim is always at the forefront of a recovery period. It eventually turns into growth after a recovery.”

Back to the bank

For some of us, a tax return used to represent the chance to splurge on something – a new toy, a trip, something for the kids.

But more of this year’s tax refunds are likely to head straight into bank accounts or be put against debt, according to a new poll.

A national Harris survey showed that 51 percent of taxpayers said they needed at least part of their refund to pay for basic commodities, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. And 71 percent of those surveyed said that rather than spending their refunds, they planned to save them or pay off debt.

The good news for taxpayers is that the average return is growing this year, according to the IRS. As of March 20, the average refund was $2,740, up by 10 percent over last year.

Unplanned, unpaid vacation

More and more employees are being furloughed – told to take unpaid time off. It’s a way that employers can cut salary expenses without laying people off, and we may be seeing more of it this year.

In a poll by the Society for Human Resources Management, reported by McClatchy Newspapers, 17 percent of employers said that if the economy doesn’t improve in the next six months, it is somewhat or very likely that they’ll be putting employees on furlough.

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