Al’s column

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BRIGHT SPOT: This may not be earth-shattering, but any glimmer of light is welcome in the darkness. Last month, consumer spending rose more than forecast, a sign households are gaining confidence in the recovery and the improving job market. Commerce Department figures showed purchases improved after little change the prior month. Incomes climbed slightly and the savings rate increased to the highest level in eight months. It hit 4% at $454.3 billion. Economists are hopeful the trend will continue and believe demand will accelerate as gains in payrolls, longer work weeks and rising pay give consumers the means to spend. Well, it’s a start.

MORE LIGHT: I’m a magnet for good news. Today I learned the number of chief executives planning to increase hiring is at the highest level since mid-2007. A recent survey suggests large U.S. companies are expecting stronger sales and are growing more confident about the economic recovery. These credentials are impeccable. The Business Roundtable—an association of more than 150 CEOs whose companies have a combined workforce of 12 million and nearly $6 trillion in annual revenue—said a survey of its members shows 39% expect to boost their payrolls in the second half of 2010. More people working, more people spending. Good for the retail community. The 39% is the highest level since the second quarter of 2007, the year the recession began, when 42% planned to hire.

J.J. IS O.K.: At a special dinner during its June golf outing, the Maryland and Northern Virginia Floor Covering Association honored J.J. Haines & Co. as its 2009 Associate Member of the Year. “In recognition of its outstanding contribution to the association and the floor covering industry in general for many years, we applaud its effort in all it does to promote growth and education in our industry.” J.J. Haines has been a distinguished associate member of the organization for many years. Haines reigns.

FLOORED: Thought you knew everything about flooring? Think again. A recent study showed flooring can affect purchasing decisions; consumers’ subconscious attitudes influence their buying behavior. The implications of the research in retail shops depend largely on whether customers are looking at a product from just inches away or from a distance. A plush carpet, for example, would make a distant product seem more comfortable, while a tile floor would be more suitable in an office furniture store. The flooring acts as a frame of reference and provides a comfort zone for the shopper. The survey evaluated utility and comfort with an assortment of products in varied circumstances. One executive saw the study as “an interesting theory. The science of trying to figure out how a consumer shops is one that millions of companies spend billions of dollars on every year.” It’s an evolving science.

LOVE IN BLOOM: Mohawk has launched an Internet microsite—wholovesmohawk.com—with video, downloads and other consumer-oriented elements that encourages consumers to share their experiences with Mohawk products and people. David Duncan, vice president of marketing, explained: “We created this site so that we’d have a place to share key events and centralize information that appears in multiple places online. And we also wanted to persuade people to tell us their stories…and share them with lots of other consumers.” The site features announcements and updates on events and projects, such as Mohawk “In The News,” featuring TV reports, magazine articles and other positive reports on Mohawk and its products. Retailers are invited to visit the site and contribute their own comments on why they love Mohawk. Early indications are proving it’s love at first site.

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