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From Home Furnishing Business

From the Editor: The Happiest of Quarters?

By Sheila Long O’Mara

We’ve stepped into fall. The season in which Mother Nature pulls out her best and brightest colors to show off her splendor. Halloween has passed, and we’re charging head first into the holiday season with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas.

The holidays bring with them lots of food, lots of family and lots of friends. We also find ourselves smack-dab in the throes of retail’s hottest quarter of the year. The magical three-month span can often either make or break a year for the best of retailers.

The pressure is on, and this year the consumer mindset is making things look a little scary. We only thought the ghosts and goblins had been packed away for next year!

Last month’s 16-day government shutdown, created by dysfunction in Washington, caused such a state of angst for consumers that I fear she may stay in hiding for some time more. Want another nugget of distressing info? The deal our politicians struck to reopen and refund the government only guarantees funding through Jan. 15.

So, just as we’re packing away the tree and other lingering decorations, the yammering and debating and cantankerous atmosphere will return to the political debate. Our daily newspapers and nightly news shows will be filled with “they did this” and “they did that”. Or, more aptly, “they didn’t do this” and “they didn’t do that” finger pointing.

The political atmosphere in Washington, D.C. makes the likelihood of suiting up for round two extremely high, and the consumer is well aware of the potential impact to her bank account or job or overall financial well being.

Consumer nerves are frazzled, and they are tentative and more than leery of spending in wake of a perceived economic crisis. The fortitude to shell out money for much more than the necessities of life just isn’t likely there under the looming cloud.

This season, families will slash holiday budgets and sock the extra away for a stormy day that, right or wrong, they’re confident is ahead. Santa will still come; but his sack is likely to be bit lighter, and Thanksgiving feasts could be a bit smaller. The essentials will get covered, but perhaps the planned purchase of a new dining room suite gets postponed by a wait-and-see-attitude. Furniture, like it or not, tends to be an easily postponable purchase. That worn sofa may be lumpy, but it’s still a place to sit. The bedroom group may not have the latest bells and whistles, but it serves its utilitarian purpose. The kitchen table is still standing on all four legs.

What to do?

Get in there and fight with all you’ve got. Furniture retailers must pull out their biggest bag of tricks to entice the consumer to invest in her largest investment and create a welcoming haven for family and friends. A soft, safe place to land at the end of the day remains a beautiful thing. Here’s to a bright fourth quarter filled with an abundance of lovely surprises.

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