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Warren Shoulberg

The Soft Parade

August 2, 2012
As the gift industry slogs its way through the summer show circuit – all of the big shows are now over with the exception of New York – it’s a good time to pause and see where things are.

And where they are is soft.

Anyone can put any spin they want on business, market attendance and all manner of business predicaments, but the fact of the matter is that the economy remains troubled and the shows so far this summer reflected that in no uncertain terms.

Why anyone expects show traffic and order-writing to be the same in tough times as they are in good ones is beyond me. Clearly, the winter show cycle will turn out to be stronger than the summer round, just as the overall economy appeared to be stronger and more optimistic six month ago than now.

You don’t need to be Ben Bernanke to figure that out.

But a few things are worth noting coming out of the show season so far this summer:

1. The strong continue to get stronger. If you were on the 18th floor of Building B in Atlanta, you would have thought it was 2007 all over again and that stores had all the business they wanted.

Bigger, better-run and better capitalized companies continue to pull away from the pack in gift and home, just as they have in other industries. It’s just taken this industry a little longer to start to see that progression really happen. It’s really happening now.

2. The third quarter is going to be tough. The negativity of this presidential election – which anyone who turned on a TV in Las Vegas this week couldn’t avoid missing given the fact that Nevada promises to be a crucial swing  state in November – is only going to get worse and that is going to weigh heavy on consumer spending. The last time there were such negative vibes emanating from the national stage was during the fight over the debt ceiling last year and that really put a serious damper on consumer sentiment. The same thing is going from late September through early November.

3. Christmas will not be cancelled. As negative as things get before the election, there tends to be a giant sigh of relief afterwards and November and December have the potential to really shine, even making up for whatever was lost earlier in the season. Sure, 49.2 percent of the people in the country are going to be disappointed their man didn’t win, but most of us are so glad all the yelling is over and the uncertainty has been removed from the future that we usually go out and buy a lot of stuff. It’s human nature, but it happens.

The upcoming New York show is the last major stop on the buying circuit but it usually holds true to the course set in other cities. That should repeat in 2012.

The slow parade will continue.