GMAT : Analysis of An Argument

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An Argument


9. The following appeared in the opinion column of a financial magazine.

On average, middle-aged consumers devote 39 percent of their retail expenditure to department store products and services, while for younger consumers the average is only 25 percent. Since the number of middle-aged people will increase dramatically in the next decade, department stores can expect retail sales to increase significantly during the period. Furthermore, to take advantage of the trend, these stores should begin to replace some of the products intended to attract the younger consumer with products intended to attract the middle-aged consumer.


Question


Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion.


Analysis


Based on an expected increase in the number of middle-aged people during the next decade, the author predicts that retail sales at department stores will increase significantly over the next ten years.

To bolster this prediction, the author cites statistics showing that middle-aged people devote a much higher percentage of their retail expenditure to department store services and products than younger consumers do.

Since the number of middle-aged consumers is on the rise and since they spend more than younger people on department store goods and services, the author further recommends that department stores begin to adjust their inventories to capitalize on this trend.

Specifically, he recommends that department stores increase their inventory of products aimed at middle-aged consumers and decrease their inventory of products aimed at younger consumers. This argument is problematic for two reasons.

First, an increase in the number of middle-aged people does not necessarily portend an overall increase in department store sales. It does so only on the assumption that other population groups will remain relatively constant. For example, if the expected increase in the number of middle-aged people is offset by an equally significant decrease in the number of younger people, there would be little or no net gain in sales.

Second, in recommending that department stores replace products intended to attract younger consumers with products more suitable to middle-aged consumers, the author assumes that the number of younger consumers will not also increase. Since a sizable increase in the population of younger consumers could conceivably offset the difference in the retail expenditure patterns of younger and middle-aged consumers, it would be unwise to make the recommended inventory adjustment lacking evidence to support this assumption.

In conclusion, this argument is unacceptable. To strengthen this argument the author would have to provide evidence that the population of younger consumers will remain relatively constant over the next decade.

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