It seems the most difficult thing to gauge these days is a little something our culture is strongly based on: consumer behavior. So this is weird. Really weird.
Everytime I listen to the news on the radio or watch it on TV I hear economists from all over saying the same thing: that consumer behavior is unpredictable, incalculable, and very very important. While economics is mainly theory and forecasts, though in relation to empirical evidence, it seems that consumer behavior is just another factor you hear them all mention that throws another wrentch in the equation.
Really, its quite hilarious. I think it's kinda like the free-will/destiny debate. And I could argue both sides, at least insofar as American consumerism is concerned. Really we have both in this country: we have the free-will to buy 1,000 different kinds of toothpaste, but we are also destined to buy it from Wal-Mart, or at least a toothpaste product from China that mainly sells to Wal-mart. You get the point.
Still, no economists (who seem to be regarded or at least listened to as god itself these days) can tell you how humans will behave, what they will buy, and what they won't. Even further, the especially frosty weather was expected to hamper much consumer spending in retail stores, but all the big retailers just reported a large increase. This should prove the point: rain, snow, sunshine, rich, poor, conservative, liberal, red, blue, black, or green, these economists from Yale or Harvard or Berkely (nor much or anyone else for that matter) can predict human behavior. And human behavior in the US usually means: consumer behavior.