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Happy Days Are Here Again - - - Almost - - - Maybe

December 10, 2010
The holidays are upon us - - - no news to anyone. Anyway, is it just me or is there a sense of confidence in the air? For example, this week the newspaper quoted high-end cosmetic companies as saying that after a hiatus, their customers are coming back and buying their most expensive emollients. Good stuff  because after the economic collapse their customers started shopping for less expensive cosmetics at Big Box Mart. Now, the cosmetic manufacturers sense better times are a comin’ because the middle class wants a “treat” after denying themselves for so long.

 

Well, yippee to that! I am hoping our customers want to treat themselves to some new patio furniture in the upcoming year, too. A lot of that will depend on the housing market, I guess. But, I am sure there are lots of people already in homes who put off buying patio furniture as they started cutting their household budgets. Now that their confidence is returning, they are letting go of their tightly held funds.  I started seeing an inkling of this August, when the stock market started its current upward trend. August, September, and November were up from 2009 in double digits. October stayed level with October of 2009 but I see that as a positive trend compared to some of the spring and summer months we had.

 

Who knows, though? It’s discombobulating when one news report talks about how consumer confidence is growing while just a few minutes later, on the same news report, they highlight how housing starts are down. It looks like we have to pick and choose which news report we want to believe. I am putting my faith in  the more positive comments.

 

In addition to business appearing to be on an up tick, I have also noticed that customers are willing to look at more expensive options than they were a year ago. That is not to say the high end is flourishing - - - just that there are signs of life there. Let’s hope the  shallow breathing I hear is “resuscitation” and not a “death rattle.”

 

Another good sign, at least for me as a buyer, is new products that I brought in for 2011 are selling well. New Orleans is a very traditional city when it comes to design. For years, we have not been able to give “contemporary” away. Even “transitional” is a hard sell. So, it was a big risk for me to buy as much contemporary as I did for 2011. This includes Ebel’s Cannes outdoor wicker sectional, Winston’s Southern Cay in both sling and cushion, Brown Jordan’s new Flight sling furniture, and Suncoast’s Visions. Customers have voted with their wallets and elected these winners. A collective pat on my back for that!

 

Even as I write this somewhat confident blog, I am getting news that shows our industry is still in trouble or, at least, changing. Suncoast has announced their strategic restructuring. Bill Brown left Brown Jordan to pursue other endeavors. And, some of my early buys are taking suspiciously long to get shipped. Still, I keep up my Pollyanna demeanor and think I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, either that or the headlight of an oncoming locomotive.

 

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce