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Retail instalment* purchase patterns from the 1940s

The graph above traces outstanding instalment accounts from different retail categories: household appliance, furniture, and jewelry stores from 1941 to 1951. The groups follow a similar path. From 1943-1947, the series encounter a deep decline, which can be attributed to a number of factors, such as the 1945 recession, shifts in GDP, and changes in the employment rate. In 1947, the series for household appliance stores rises steeply then continues to rise steadily along with furniture stores.

There are also a few differences among the groups. Jewelry stores hit their highs in December of each year, unlike furniture and household appliance stores. This sharp increase at the end of the year is typically due to winter holidays, when consumers are spending more on gifts. We also notice that the series for household appliances stores lags behind the other categories until 1948, when it rises above furniture stores.

To examine more historical retail data, visit FRASER, where you can view other economic publications and the complete release from the graph above: G.17.2 Retail Instalment Credit.

How this graph was created: Search for “Instalment Accounts,” then select “Instalment Accounts Outstanding Household Appliance Stores,” “Instalment Accounts Outstanding Jewelry Stores,” and “Instalment Accounts Outstanding Furniture Stores.” Then click on “Add to Graph.”

*Editor’s note for careful readers: The spelling of instalment is taken directly from the Board of Governors’ release. The spelling of “installment” vs. “instalment” wasn’t standardized when these data were collected in the 1940s. People may have been occupied with other events at the time.

Suggested by Ebony Mosby.

View on FRED, series used in this post: G172IIFUN01, G172IIHA01, G172IIJA01

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