The boys of summer

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by Al Wahnon

There are economists who feel the recession has bottomed out, that we have turned the corner. Then, there are those who believe we are approaching the corner and others who think the corner is distant but in sight. Whether the recovery has begun or is poised to begin, there are enough economists to express every point of view. And these financial wizards do just that: express every point of view. Over the past two years of faltering business, I’m sure most beleaguered retailers have been inundated by an avalanche of advice, “proven” programs, “essential” safeguards, “tried and true” theories, “reliable” remedies and “certified” survival instruction.

The pundits recommend that retailers under the pressure of consumer withdraw- al and diminished business increase their advertising—size and frequency—augment promotions by adding holiday events and community tie-ins; incentivize sales- people and cultivate consumer interest with mailings, radio and TV spots, and an assortment of brochures. Dealers are inundated in the efforts of well-meaning business healers who deluge them with solutions to problems, antidotes to toxic situations and answers to gnawing consumer quandaries. Retailers grow weary of “experts” offering cures for all business ailments and they seek a respite from the benevolent arm that dispenses the great panacea designed to mend all fiscal ills.

The retailer needs to get away from business for a day or so, get his or her mind off flooring, off the store and consumers, off everything to do with sales. The retailer must relax, get rid of the stress, enjoy a few hours away from the store and have only pleasant thoughts. That shouldn’t be difficult now that spring has come to town and brought its companion, Major League Baseball. The nation’s pastime has launched its 2010 season and people everywhere are obsessed with the game of baseball. Fans—that’s short for fanatics—cut their hair and paint their faces, wear the weirdest clothes and say the silliest things. Americans love baseball and tickets to the local team’s home game could be a bigger prize than you think.

First, it’s a good opportunity for the owner to takes some personal time to unwind, return to work refreshed and ready for new challenges. Then, tickets could be used as an incentive for salespeople and they will love it, especially if the time off is included in the deal. Also, tickets to ballgames can be offered to consumers, for shopping or buying or recommending. There’s just nothing like being taken out to the ball park and getting peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jack and not caring if you ever get back.

Actually, a good idea would be to sponsor a Little League team in your neighborhood. They play all summer and wear uniforms with your store name emblazoned across the front for all parents to see and remember. You will be hard pressed to think of a more effective method of advertising.

Whether the economy is improving is in the eye of the beholder and depends on the expert in session. What we do know is we’re in the late innings and the score might be tied. We have to be certain to steal home with the winning run. After all, if floor coverings don’t steal home, appliances might, or kitchen cabinets. It took us long enough to get to first base and now we need a big hit—which we have in carpet, resilient, wood, ceramic and laminate products. So, root, root, root for the home team, if they don’t win it’s a shame. For it’s one, two three strikes you’re out at the old ball game.

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