Normally, the end-of-year holiday season is the most profitable for retailers of all types. In our industry, designers and workrooms work to a feverish pitch to ensure clients' decorating projects will be done on time; window coverings retailers scramble to cap off the year on a high note; and manufacturers and fabricators busily keep their dealers supplied while looking ahead to new spring product introductions.
But this has not been a normal year. The attacks of September 11 made sure of that. From a business perspective the initial reaction was close to panic, followed by a tightening of the belt and the purse strings. More recently there has been talk of a recession—which, they say, actually started several months before September—but it's usually followed by forecasts that the recession is ending. With a rising stock market and consumer confidence building slowly, we seem to be ending the year financially and emotionally stable.
Still, there are some among us who are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Just exactly what that will be and when it will happen is uncertain and that has them in a wary, cautious frame of mind. Perhaps that's good. "Be prepared," the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts say.
Other trends, however, seem to play in our favor. Most notably is "cocooning," a trend originally identified several years ago and defined as the desire of consumers to wrap themselves in the cozy, friendly environment of home. Today, the safety and comforts of home take on heightened meaning. These days Americans are staying close to home, literally. Vacations are being reconsidered. In many cases, the money set aside for travel is being used on home improvements to make the time spent there even safer and more enjoyable. This bodes well for our industry.
As we enter the new year we are likely to find things keep improving and business begins to look robust again. It may well be the first quarter of 2002 that will tell the tale of how good a year it will be. Indications are we could be celebrating a happy new year all the way through to next December.