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Cinde W. Ingram

Sunshine stimulus

Casually Speaking

When I refilled the hummingbird feeder this morning, I heard the buzz of wings and turned to see a ruby-throated hummer hovering at eye level. It was another sign of spring’s renewal.

We’re climbing up and heading outside again after a scary winter.

Consumer confidence rose in April, following record declines and financial free-falls. The stock market shows signs of stabilizing. The national unemployment rate in March held at 8.5%, less than the double digit levels some observers had predicted. Higher than expected home sales were being posted, although moving through the glut of foreclosed homes will slow recovery in the housing construction market, likely until early 2010.

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, has reported seeing tentative signs of economic improvement. Although President Obama acknowledged the nation is “by no means out of the woods” economically, he was optimistic the stimulus package will combine with his overall domestic agenda to put the country on a path of recovery. Aware the housing slowdown is adding to the stalled economy, he urged homeowners to refinance and take advantage of lower mortgage rates. Government action to thaw the ongoing credit freeze also will help.

Those indicators, coupled with growing reports of improved retail sales, have some observers saying, “It’s not as bad as it could have been.” Casual furniture retailers and manufacturers I’ve talked with lately have repeated the words “surprisingly good” when they described sales.

“The next three months will tell the tale for your folks,” furniture analyst Jerry Epperson told me as we talked about the casual/outdoor segment.

This month will trend warmer than May 2008 for the nation as a whole, according to Weather Trends International’s forecast. The Midwest can expect the biggest improvement over last year, while the West will experience wetter and cooler conditions than last May’s record heat.

“We need 15 sunny, warm weekends,” one industry player said.

The right weather, combined with a stable economy, will encourage consumers to leave their huddled down positions and start to enjoy entertaining at home again. The ongoing staycation trend will continue to benefit our industry. After a hard winter, sunshine stimulus offers a natural, eco-friendly solution.

Feedback? Send your comments to:
Cinde W. Ingram
Casual Living Editor-In-Chief
7025 Albert Pick Rd., Suite 200, Greensboro, N.C. 27409

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