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Al's Column

by Al Wahnon

IT’S OUT THERE: You can sit back and complain, moan and groan about the sagging economy and long- gone luxuries, or you can spend that time scouring newspapers for articles that are upbeat, full of promise and hope, and herald an end to these fiscal doldrums. I always find snippets of reasonably good news when I troll the pages of the newspaper; perhaps not every day, but most of the time. I read this yesterday: Unemployment rates fell for more than 90% of the nation’s 372 largest metropolitan areas as hiring picked up around the country. The Labor Department said the jobless rate dropped in 346 areas, rose in 12 and remained flat in 14. You may think that’s not a big deal, but it beats double-digit unemployment.

ON BRANDS: Interior Design magazine published its annual Universe Study on Design and the more than 3,500 responses revealed some very interesting insights. The report listed the “Top 10 reasons why a brand becomes a designer favorite”: 1) Beautiful, timeless design. 2) Multifunctionality that lets a designer’s imagination run wild. 3) Exceptional quality, always upheld. 4) Variety in colors, finishes and sizes. 5) A genuine initiative where sustainability is concerned. 6) Timely sampling and quick delivery. 7) Knowledgeable and responsive representatives. 8) Reliable customer service and follow-up support. 9) Reasonable pricing and good value. 10) Staff members who are designer friendly. If you want to get on the Brand Wagon, read and take heed.

WARREN-TY: It’s safe to say Warren Buffett is the world’s greatest stock investor. He is also a raconteur and a philosopher and combining those traits, he distills his massive knowledge of investments into easily understood bits of information for the less skilled (and I love it!). “Rule No. 1: Never Lose Money. Rule No. 2: Never Forget Rule No. 1. Buffett personally lost about $23 billion in the financial crisis of 2008, so how can he advise us never to lose money? Actually, he’s referring to the mindset of a rational investor. Don’t be frivolous. Don’t gamble. Don’t go into an investment with a capricious attitude that losing is not so bad. Be informed. Do some research. Buffett invests only in companies he thoroughly vets and understands and he never considers losing. He believes the most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect. He says, “It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.” He bought Shaw, didn’t he?

DOG DAYS: Think about a pooch promotion at your store. A recent study of adults revealed that 74% say they feel close to their father, but somewhat more, 87% say they feel close to their mother. However, move over folks, dogs edge both parents, as do cats. A whopping 94% of dog owners say they feel “close” to their pet, compared with 84% of cat owners. So, if you’re keeping score, the family intimacy standings look like this: dog, 94%; mom, 87%; cat, 84%, dad, 74%. Capitalize on the canine craze and bring your dog to work. Let him laze around the showroom and nuzzle up to customers. Chances are they have one at home and will love the store pet. And if he soils the carpet, you can demonstrate your cleaning technique for the shopper. Everybody wins—especially the dog.

OBSERVATION: People can be divided into three groups: those who make things hap- pen. Those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. In the first instance you’re on life’s stage. In the second, you’re in the audience. In the third, you’re still parking the car.