Top 27 Excuses For Horrible Q1 Economic Performance

In homes across America this weekend, children will turn up in Halloween costumes, calendars will turn over to November, and clocks will turn back in honor of Daylight Saving Time.  And then – like clockwork - retailers will spring forward with their all-out carpet-bombing assault via the American airwaves for pre-Christmas, Grey Thursday, Black Friday promotions, and financial pundits will once again “Get It Wrong” as they attempt to extrapolate the state of the consumer based on this information.  I can’t take another year of this insanity, so I’ve decided to launch a “preemptive strike” – in the form of a remedial Case Study – to explain what should be an unbelievably obvious pattern of consumer behavior, but which continues to baffle the talking heads on every online, offline, and inline business channel.

Case Study

Everyone who drives a vehicle eventually needs tires.  Tires are a fairly expensive purchase, averaging about $100 per tire, meaning that replacing all four tires would cost $400.  Question: What would happen if every tire company began slashing prices on tires by 50% every year during the months of November and December – meaning that instead of $400 you could upgrade your radials for only $200?  Answer:  People would begin planning on and “expecting” this promotional pricing, and would budget and “time” their spending habits accordingly.  For example, if your tire tread was beginning to wear thin in August, you would figure out a way to keep them functioning until the half-price sale later in the year.  And if you were planning on upgrading your tires in February, you would strategically pull forward your purchase by two months so that you could take advantage of these 50% off sales, enabling you to double your purchasing power.

Christmas Study

Folks, this is exactly what’s happening with today’s consumer as it relates to Christmas.  Over the years, retailers have conditioned consumers to expect crazy 50%, 60%, even 75% discounts every year around the Holiday season, which now runs (at a minimum) from November 1 through the end of December.  As a result, buyers now plan their annual purchases to correspond with this one time of the year when they get the most BANG for their flat-lining-wages BUCK. 

Christmas Stupidity

This unbelievably predictable pattern is not rocket surgery, yet every year analysts extrapolate the retail figures from this November-December period and declare, “Good tidings of great joy,” while confidently proclaiming the American consumer STRONG, and then every year they are “Shocked, confused and disappointed” by the sudden downturn – forcing them to find a “Convenient yet contextual” scapegoat to explain why the January-February economic numbers were epic failures.  I hate to go Old Testament here, but I believe it was Joseph who predicted seven fat years (weeks) followed by seven lean years (weeks), and this is exactly what happens when consumers hold off on purchases during the Fall (September consumer spending just reported its smallest gain in 8 months) and then – as if spring-loaded – they explode into Christmas, before promptly falling off a cliff AGAIN in Q1.

From Polar Vortex to Polar Express

In order to explain this annual yet somehow perennially confusing phenomenon, companies have resorted to blaming everything from the “Blizzard in Boston” to “Snowmaggedon at the Statehouse” to a conveniently invented “Polar Vortex” in an effort to excuse their quintessentially abysmal Q1 performance, but the truth is that consumers have figured out the game, and will now open their wallets ONLY when the Santa Sales come out.

Because all of the “easy” excuses for lackluster performance have already been used up, firms will increasingly be hard-pressed to invent new ones going forward, so as a service to Corporate America, I would like to offer the following list of excuses for rationalizing to shareholders why their first quarter numbers were so horrible.

Handy Checklist of 27 Reasons/Excuses for Horrible Q1 Economic Performance (line-outs have already been used)

Polar Vortex

Polar Express

Gangnam Style


Mayan Curse

1. Too many great WNBA match-ups on TNT

2. Apple Watch doesn’t “do” Daylight Savings Time – confused Americans forget to shop

3. Trey Gowdy bought up all of the hair products

4. Jade Helm exercises kept fearful shoppers from leaving their homes

5. It was discovered that funding for Obama’s shovel-ready JOBS didn’t include funding for actual SHOVELS

6. The Super Bowl went long

7. Consumers were riveted when “Game of Thrones” and “House of Cards” merged to create “Game of Cards”

8. Putin accidentally shot himself playing Russian Roulette; nations mourn, Americans too Assad to shop

9. The Pope said “Relax” – so they did

10. Banks with SmartChip cards launched new “Sour Cream and Onion” SmartChip cards, causing stampede and chaos

11. NIRP and ZIRP gave way to TWIRP (Totally Wacko Interest Rate Policy), confusing consumers

12. Americans still recovering from Deflategate – too traumatized to shop

13. L.L. Bean Duck Boots already sold out, and without boots shoppers can’t get to stores

14. American’s not feeling so “lucky” after being told by Clint Eastwood to “hunker down”

15. Consumers are now BROKE after new 2016 Obamacare rates kick in (Note: You WILL see this one used as an excuse!)

16. Who knew Apple TV would be this addictive?

17. People with “Hillary in 2016” bumper stickers are afraid to drive, claiming a “Witch-hunt”

18. In a rare show of patriotism, Americans refuse to buy anything Made in China (except actual China)

19. The ”Strong Dollar” excuse (since the Strong Dollar was already blamed in 2015, starting in 2016 corporations will be forced to move on to blaming the “Strong Quarter,” the “Strong Dime,” the “Strong Nickel,” and finally the “Strong Penny,” before moving on to the “Strong Bitcoin,” the “Strong Pokémon Points” and then, ultimately, the “Strong Chuck E. Cheese Token.”

20. Disney released their much-anticipated sequel “Unfrozen,” but not until the Spring thaw – confusing consumers

21. Obama revises all of his previous speeches on global warming to read “climate change” – a phenomenon our parents used to call “weather” – confusing consumers

22. America’s leading ground hog prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil not only didn’t see his shadow, but his “lazy eye” suggested to consumers that perhaps they should stay indoors for another six weeks

23. To increase viewership, the NCAA added an evening gown and swimsuit competition to their March Madness Tournament, traumatizing viewers and causing them not to spend

24. The X Games launched a new league – the XXL Games – to appeal to the less “weigh-conscious” viewers, who were so riveted by this new sport they forgot to go shopping

25. CNBC blamed Republican candidates for the Q1 downturn, prompting Trump to send another tweet, frightening consumers

26. Because of an (insert favorite here) “Early Easter,” “Late Easter,” “’NorEaster” American consumers decided to Passover Q1 shopping

27. Amazon jumped into the food delivery business with the launch of their new “Drone to Home” concierge service code-named “Amazon Prime Rib” – prompting Americans to stay home and order in instead of going out shopping.

I trust this list will prove helpful for both media and management, as they attempt to reconcile the “Feast-Then-Famine” nature of the “last two” AND the “first two” months of every year going forward. (Now if I could just get Amazon to move a little faster on this Prime Rib thing…)





Disclosure: I have no positions in the stocks or industries referenced above.

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Mike Nolan 2 years ago Member's comment

Would love to see more by you.

Stock Shorts 3 years ago Member's comment


Samantha Carter 7 years ago Member's comment

A humerus twist to a very real issue. Though despite the Christmas sales starting earlier and earlier, I admit I'm one of those last minute shoppers!

Gary Anderson 7 years ago Contributor's comment

Lol, yes, perhaps men have too much estrogen in their bodies due to processed foods, and didn't have the courage to fight the crowds. :) I think the millennials are that way.