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Al's column

IT’S A START: Consumers spent modestly last month (February), a sign that the economic recovery is proceeding at a decent—but not spectacular—pace, according to the Commerce Department. Consumers boosted their spending by 0.3%, a tad slower than the 0.4% increase recorded in January, which was the smallest increase since September. All things considered, the increase in spending was considered a respectable showing, especially given the snowstorms that slammed the East Coast and kept some people away from malls. It marked the fifth straight month that consumer spending rose. Americans’ incomes, however, were flat in February, following a solid 0.3% gain in January. It was the weakest showing since July, when incomes actually shrank. Income growth is the fuel for future spending, and so economists see these latest numbers as signaling a modest economic recovery.

PET PEEVES: Travelocity recently released its annual Rudeness Poll, revealing the top travel peeves of 1,600 respondents. From boarding the plane to dining out while on vacation, it seems that rude behavior occurs at every stage of the trip. Here are some of the poll’s results: More than 80% feel that large passengers should occupy two seats; more than one- third believe the customer should pay for that second seat while 44% think the large passenger should be accommodated at no extra cost. Passengers wrestling with larger than allowed carry-on luggage topped the list of irritations when boarding a plane, with 29% agreeing. Travelers who rush to deplane before those ahead of them are the most annoying at the end of a flight, according to 47% of the respondents. The least favorite traveler to sit next to during a flight is one with “poor hygiene,” say 45%, and coughing or sneezing passengers were second with 30%. Loud talking or swearing, 56%, and “kicking the seat,” 50%. If you’re finicky, drive.

FAMILY TIES: Since so many of our industry’s retail operations are family businesses, this 10-point program by Mike Henning of Henning Family Business Center in Effingham, Ill., might be enlightening. He calls it Ten Proven Methods to Pass Your Business to the Next Generation. 1) Plan and follow a successor’s career development program. 2) You and your family members need to know the value of your estate. 3) Devise a will and update it every 3 to 5 years. 4) Use a trust to shield your estate from taxes. 5) Maintain an emergency plan in case of an accident, illness or death. 6) View the business as a challenge, not a gift. 7) ”Fair” is that which everyone accepts as being “fair.” 8) Use business dollars to create “fairness.” 9) Non-active family should share in what Dad/Mom built, but not in what their brother/sister built. 10) Communication is the “key.” Hold regular family meetings. Bonus: Justice is determined by values. Identify your group of values, define the rules, then discuss the goals.

MILLIKEN AGAIN: The Ethisphere Institute has recognized Milliken & Co. as One of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2010. Milliken, one of the world’s largest privately held textile, chemical and floor covering manufacturers, made the list every year since its inception in 2007. The research-based Ethisphere Institute is a leading international think tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability. Milliken is dedicated to building a strong culture of integrity, innovation and excellence, and it has been recognized as one of the “17 Safest Companies in America” and named five times by Fortune magazine as a “100 Best Companies to Work For.” Kudos to Milliken for its ethical achievements, its safeness and for being a “best” employer.