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Clues about the economy, by way of the shopping mall

BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: November 21, 2010

Attention armchair economists: You don't need spreadsheets to get a handle on how this year's holiday shopping season is going. Just keep an eye on sales of push-up bras.

You read that right. Retail analyst John Morris says that if we see brisk sales of the “Miraculous” bras at Victoria's Secret it could be a good indicator of two important economic trends.

If women buy these high-priced bras, they're probably willing to buy other things for themselves, too. That would be a shift from the last two holiday seasons when shoppers mostly bought for others.

Strong sales of lingerie would also suggest that shoppers are willing to indulge. That would be a change from last year when they stuck to basics. The bras, launched a year ago and sold with the tag line “Hello, Bombshell,” cost between $49.50 and $250.

“The Bombshell bra has been selling out, and that's not because husbands are buying them for their wives,” says Morris, who works at of BMO Capital Markets. “It's the wives buying for themselves.”

What's on sale?

Everybody loves discounts, and retailers offer plenty of them. The key difference to watch for is this: when discounts shift from planned promotions into desperate acts by retailers trying to move merchandise out the door.

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