Spring fever could be the cure

Departments - Outlook

In January the National Retail Federation released its 2010 economic forecast, which projected a 2.5 percent increase over 2009. Federation officials cited positive signs in economic indicators such as housing and employment as helping to bolster consumer confidence throughout the year.

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April 23, 2010

David Kuack

In January the National Retail Federation released its 2010 economic forecast, which projected a 2.5 percent increase over 2009. Federation officials cited positive signs in economic indicators such as housing and employment as helping to bolster consumer confidence throughout the year. The projected increase would match the sales decline that occurred during 2009. Other positive economic contributions, according to the Federation, will come from strong trade exports, adjustments in the inventory cycle and federal government spending.
    
NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells said that even though consumers will continue to be frugal with their discretionary spending, retailers are expected to benefit from their efforts to better control product inventories and “pent up consumer demand”.
    
Even with NRF’s upbeat retail forecast, small-business owners are still struggling. The recession has taken a toll on these owners both physically and mentally. A survey of over 700 small-business owners by management consulting company George S. May International found that 52 percent of owners had experienced negative health effects from the recession. Released in February, the survey indicated 80 percent of respondents gave their business a nine-month lifespan if the economy did not improve.


Positive signs for horticulture

While some small-business owners look for continued signs of economic recovery, growers and retailers have indicated a guarded optimism about the upcoming spring season. The cold and snowy winter that has impacted a major part of the country should cause home-bound consumers to seek solace in outdoor activities, including gardening, once the weather breaks. Extended periods of freezing temperatures, ice storms and heavy snowfalls in some locations have taken their toll on plant material, which hopefully will translate into replacement plantings.
    
Vegetables are expected to be big again this year. The 2009 Edibles Gardening Trends Research Report conducted by the Garden Writers Association Foundation found that over 41 million households (38 percent) put in a vegetable garden, more than 19.5 million households (18 percent) grew an herb garden and 16.5 million households produced fruit.
    
The enthusiasm consumers have expressed for gardening is expected to continue this year. The GWA survey found that 37 percent of households plan to increase edible gardens this year with another 29 percent planting about the same. Only 1 percent of households indicated they would plant less.
    
Over 7 million households were new gardeners in 2009. The top resources for obtaining gardening information came from friends and the Internet. Looks like our industry has plenty of opportunity to ensure consumers have a good shopping and gardening experience this year.