I’m with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. I see some preliminary signs of economic strength, but I’m by no means ready to pronounce the economy irrevocably on the mend. Like the man said, there are still “significant risks.” The factors I discussed in my earlier article haven’t gone away, and enough time hasn’t passed for things to have worked themselves out anyway.
Maybe my cautious attitude is the result of living in the Northwest, where we enjoy the highest unemployment rates in the country, not to mention the shortest days and lousiest weather this time of the year.
Still, I have the perception that the surf industry has held up tolerably well. Just as a guess, that has something to do with the recovery of consumer attitudes and a better than feared holiday shopping season. Certain economic indicators also seem to be improving, though not at a breakneck speed. At least they still aren’t going down.
Maybe more importantly, whatever softness there is isn’t nearly as bad as what we were all afraid it would be in the aftermath of September 11. We’re meeting expectations — but often lowered ones from what I can tell.
Like Dell in computers, leading surf-industry companies with strong market positions, good balance sheets, and a competitive business model should be able to take advantage of other company’s struggles.
In the face of last Fall’s caution, inventory should be a bit scarce this spring. That’s great for the industry as a whole, but probably not so great for smaller or weaker companies who need every dollar of sales to make their cash flow work.
As an industry we seem to be proving that the social and economic demographics of our customers gives us a leg up in slower economic times. What a relief.