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EDITOR'S LETTER: Hearth and home

The shock of the war and the terrorist attacks has truly settled into my, and I believe our country's psyche. I've found myself recently seriously reevaluating how I feel about how and what I'm doing with my life.

Time with my family and my dogs has taken on an extra special quality. I'm finding myself making an effort to be more polite to others, whether to strangers in traffic or those I deal with in business. It's important to me to try to do better at recognizing what matters most.

After chatting with friends, colleagues and shopping center industry insiders, I find I'm not alone. The phenomenon of a kinder, gentler nation with an emphasis on family values is spreading.

One radio talk show claims in nine months we'll see a baby boom. They explain that in a natural psychological reaction after the attacks, people went home and, whether for solace or security reasons, headed for the bedroom. This could be good for the retailers that sell anything related to infants.

Book store receipt data indicates a hefty hike in sales, particularly in the area of self-help, prayer, cooking, poetry and family-focused topics — all the kind of things that draw people together and make them feel good.

Another niche showing some marked increases in sales is the toy stores. Toys reflecting the recent rescue efforts, such as fire trucks, are popular, as are soldier/action heroes. Old-fashioned board games and other simple, family-style pastimes top the list too.

In a rush to stockpile goods and ensure survival, consumers are heading to those selling bottled water and storable food supplies. With the implications of a long-term war, and possible water contamination, these items are selling well. Of course, stores don't want to make a profit from ongoing misfortune and uncertainty, but the positive angle is that it does help the economy.

Home stores give an account of higher sales with such items as candles, bubble bath, aroma therapy items and kitchen supplies (pots and pans). Again something that involves family and gathering around the hearth. Besides assembling kith and kin, food is one of those things that reportedly makes us feel better.

With every mail box, front door and flag pole in the United States showing the unity of the American collective family in a display of red, white and blue, the craft stores are having a banner quarter. In addition, fall and winter decorations are selling well as families design fun projects together.

These trends give hope and as long as there's hope we can take an optimistic view that we will pull through this tough time. It's great to know it's not all doom and gloom out there in the retail world despite the tragic events we will never forget and that changed us forever.

Perhaps that change is not all bad however, if it made us focus on the really important things such as family, loved-ones and community. As we approach Thanksgiving, we have even more reason to refocus, spend time doing the things that matter and sharing time with loved ones. We have much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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